Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Great Backyard Bird Count

 It was just a little over a week ago that we had a massive snow storm that dumped about 14-15 inches in our yard (and more nearby). For those moving snow (like my husband), they very quickly got tired of the snow.

It was quite impressive, and the kids and dog and I had fun wandering around in it.

We taught the kids how to clear the snow off the front steps.

And how to measure it.

And we put out extra bird seed. Soon we had all sorts of birds flocking to our feeder. The record so far is eight different species at the same time. These might be female pine siskins, the white wing bars and pointed bill look a little different than Cassin's finches, which would be my second guess (and house finches would by my third). Who said bird i.d. was easy? Ha. It's great to have some challenges right in your own backyard!

Here's a much easier bird to identify. Dark-eyed juncos (Oregon subspecies) are by far the most prevalent bird. Here's a female, the males have darker heads.

It's exciting when you see a flash of color. I knew immediately this was a goldfinch, but had to study the bird book to determine if it was American or Lesser. Goldfinches, like many birds, change color from nonbreeding to breeding season. Based on the white under the tail, I'm going with American Goldfinch for this bird. (If you're a birder and I'm wrong, let me know so I can learn!)

The House Sparrow is non-native, but we usually only have one or two and this one managed to look quite regal.

A flash of red means we have finches. They are in the same family as goldfinches, but a different genus (sort of the equivalent of being second cousins). We have both House and Cassin's Finches in the area. Based on the grey cheek and streaked flanks, I'm going with House Finch for this one.

A bird we don't see at the feeder but frequently in the yard (some are living in the holes in our Lombardy poplars) are Northern Flickers. We have the red-shafted variety here, so when they fly in their undulating pattern, we see the red under the wings. They're a type of woodpecker and have done very well in our area. We have holes in our house from them, and sometimes I have to chase them away, but they are a very pretty bird, and they eat a lot of ants in the summer.

And finally, here's one I got quite excited about. This bird is larger than the finches. With its bright red eye, black head, white belly, orange sides, and spotted dark back, it's clearly a spotted towhee. I usually see them in riparian and shrub areas at a higher elevation. They're the first species to fly off with a disturbance, so it took a few tries to get a good photo.
What birds are in your backyard? Here's a link to help you identify them.

The Great Backyard Bird Count, a nationwide effort, is coming up soon, February 12-15. Here's your chance to learn more about the birds in your backyard plus contribute to science!

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