Category Archives: finches

Redpolls at the feeder

common redpoll 1A couple of the redpolls that have been visiting the mountain off and on since December 21 started showing up at the bird feeders yesterday. This male was particularly aggressive this morning, driving all other birds from both sides of the big feeder before settling in to nosh on sunflower seeds. But by early afternoon, he or another male had learned to share the larger of the round feeders, and to forage on the ground with the other birds as well.

This has also so far been a good winter for house finches and goldfinches, both of which have been coming to the feeder in great numbers. We haven’t seen any purple finches since December.

common redpoll 2



common redpolls

We have a flock of common redpolls visiting the mountain for the first time in many years. Mom first sighted them at the edge of the Far Field on December 21, and I spotted them again (and took the above picture) on December 28, along the edge of First Field near the uphill end of the deer exclosure. Both times they were feeding on black birch seeds. That’s a red maple in the photo, though — my attempts to photograph them in the birch had spooked them a little. Still, they are very unwary of humans, since they don’t ordinarily see very many of them in the Artic and Taiga. Their twittery calls are unmistakeably finch-like, but not as high and squeaky as, say, goldfinches.

Redpolls have been spotted all over Pennsylvania this month. They, like the pine siskins that have also been visiting, are one of the so-called irruptive species: birds that usually reside in the north woods, but that shift far to the south on winters when the seed crop fails.

Common Redpolls feed primarily on the catkins produced by birch and alder trees. When catkin production is low, Common Redpolls leave these areas and irrupt into areas where food is more plentiful. Common Redpoll irruptions can be extensive, ranging as far south as the Middle Atlantic States or central Kansas.

Will evening grosbeaks be next?

— Dave

Clash of the seasons

aspens in snow

Our first snowstorm of the year yesterday brought two inches of wet stuff. That in itself might not be cause for comment, except for the fact that our oaks only reached their peak of color a few days ago, and many of the maples still hold their leaves, too. The preponderance of oaks among the canopy-height trees here is a bit of an anomaly; elsewhere in the area, the colors have mostly faded. So our autumn is a little later than the norm, perhaps.

red oak sapling in snowTwo inches is just enough to make everything pretty, but not enough to start breaking limbs — a real concern this time of year. Only three years ago, a mid-November ice-storm did a heavy pruning on many of the oaks. And too much wet snow when the ground is still unfrozen can fell trees, as happened here back in December 1992.

This morning, we had four finch species at the feeders: house finch, purple finch, goldfinch and pine siskin — good-sized flocks of the latter two. Mom has high hopes for a winter-finch irruption year. It would be our first in over a decade, if it happens.

To see all of yesterday’s photos, visit the date archive at my Flickr site.