Posted by: atowhee | May 22, 2018

MAY 22, 2018

Again today there’s a single Pine Siskin at our garden feeders in suburban McMinnville, OR.  We are less than 500 feet above sea level here and the nearest true conifer forest is small and more than a quarter mile flight away (Rotary Park).  Yet our little mystery bird lingers.  Was he sick when the other migrated off to their summer breeding grounds?  Is he truly alone here (unusual for the gregarious siskin that doesn’t even demand a large breeding territory, being more communitarian like blue herons or Cliff Swallows)?  Did the hormonal “migrate” message somehow get blocked, and won’t recur until this autumn?  This species is notoriously nomadic and unpredictable from season to season, but is not believed to be given to suddenly moving into the lowlands for summer…but this bird is likely one that wintered here.

There are numerous googled reports of lone siskins in summer or fall.  This may just be an unusual loner. Reading through the summary of known data about this species in Birds of North America online I learn that siskins now are known to occasionally breed in specimen conifers in parks and suburban areas if the food supply is sufficient.  It may be that one pair lingered to breed nearby after all the others left.  There are large conifers in our garden and several more within 100 yards, so…pisi traypisi tray2pisi tray3After I posted this blog, I heard from Paul Sullivan who lives across town in a similar neighborhood, tough closer to the Yamhill River: “I still have more than one siskin here on Rummel St., along with both goldfinches, both grosbeaks, a pair of Purple Finches, and House Finches with fledglings begging.  Now that I’ve cut back the seed, the Evening Grosbeaks are fewer and the towhee and song sparrow feel safe venturing out.”


Unlike the busyness of business in winter, our feeders now are mere way-stations in the daily lives of our avian neighbors. The female Bushtit stops by for a suet snack.  The collared-doves and the scrub-jay decide I am too dangerous-looking and they skeedaddle.  A squirrel speeds along the fence-top throughway, heads down a convenient smoke-tree trunk, then spots me, stops him.  He freezes. head-down for over a minute…then convinced I am the alpha predator he fears, leaps and turns in one swift act, back onto the fence and away, far away and fast eyePale eye identifies this as female Bushtit.  Water drops off lower beak of this thirsty jay, screaming and scolding dries one out, it seems:jay-bathjay-bath3Same jay surveys his realmo from on high:jay-heitrjay-suetsqrl frozeThe Turkey Vultures pass slowly overhead.  These sunny days must be perfect for flight without wing-beats.  A lilt of a wing here, a lift of a few feathers there, opening or narrowing the tail.  It is like watching a skilled sailor maneuver before an unfelt breeze.  How can he “see” what the air is doing, or is about to do?

I see a swift and collared-dove overhead, both heading in the same direction…a rowboat and a silent jet-ski.  Swifts have been checking out our chimney where they’ve nested in past summers.

At Joe Dancer Park this morning, I heard at least three Swainson’s Thrushes calling from the blackberry tangles.  You know, Swainson himself never came to North America…but he did help a hustler named Audubon peddle his audacious, huge books of bird drawings in England and France…and thus named himself ornithological fame here in the U.S.

GET IN THE BLOOMIN’ ACTsalsfySalsify is one of those immigrants that fits right in, makes the world a brighter place, leaves big seed heads for finchy delight in late summer.  Would you deport this “weed?”

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