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Posted by: atowhee | November 5, 2019

NOVEMBER 5–A JUNCO DAY

Today lay beneath a junco sky.  Grays of various shades pertained, changing one subtle hue to the next as the unseen sun swept past, behind the cloud curtain.  Unseen by the eyes of each of us—person or bird or squirrel.  Juncos themselves must be the logo of November for our garden.  They even out-number the eager squirrels. Both have tell-tale tails—the juncos with its two white bars that flicker in flight; the squirrels sit upright with a well-furred tale making the sign of the treble cleft along its back.JUNCO LOGO (2)

Juncos were on the ground beneath the electric lights I turned on.  It was before sunrise, before 7AM.  At 656AM I’d spread sunflower seed chips on the cement and into to hanging platform feeders.  Let the games begin.  The temperature was 36 degrees, the fog low and damp, the sun laggard and absent.
658AM The first Chestnut-backed Chickadees of the day.  They never come alone, a trio inhabits my garden and nearby bushes.

705AM I realize the suet log is bereft.  As I am taking it down one of the Chestnut-backed Chickadees lands on the platform feeder less than two feet from my face.  There is no sound from his small wings (a wingspan of less than 8 inches), no vocal squeak.  There is only the faintest scratchy sound as his tiny feet grasp the wooden edge of the feeder.  He looks at me, I at him.  Recognition and disgust on his part and depart. Again, a silent exit.  I take the log inside to refill.  The chickadee is back when I look out the window.

710AM Squirrels begin to cluster and bluster, chase one another, cock bushy tails, generally bully the small birds. It’s mostly junco: one the ground true to their sparrow nature, on feeders when squirrels absent, on the suet log, in the hydrangea vine, in the nearby trees.  Flutter and flurry is the order of their disorder.  Sometimes a dozen, spread across my visual expanse.  Nervous, alert and not comfortable being close together, like finches or Bushtits often are.

The chickadees are back and this time I catch sight of our lone Black-capped in the coming and going.  Even tiny sunflower chips must be carried off singly and further chipped at by these delicate birds.  Their delicate ways in no ways prevent them from being hardy. Almost as cold-tolerant as the juncos.

728AM  Our pair of male House Finches arrive, plunk down onto a platform, and proceed to gorge.  The only motions are stoop, grab, munch with mandibles.  Repeat as needed for satiety.

8AM  Still chilly.  Fog even heavier now at ground level.  40 degrees.  Still.

802   The first Golden-crowned Sparrow arrives stealthily.  Has he been sleeping cozily?  Feeding elsewhere?  A quick drink at a bird bath, then to the seeds on the ground, ignoring his busy little cousins, the juncos.

805   There are a dozen juncos about.  Squirrels, sometimes five at once.  They do not share, and so some aggression and chasing occurs periodically.  They never scold one another but will scold me if I stay on their veranda too long, and they want to get at the sunflower seeds.  The chickadees make quick sorties to the suet block and suet log, then instantly off they go with their booty.

852  Now 45 degrees, still foggy.  The local House Sparrow gang attack the suet.  Sometimes they also go down to the ground among the American sparrow species though they eschew any taxonomic connection to the New World natives.

930  I think I catch sight of a Yellow-rumped Warbler, the tell-tale tail flashing as the bird vanished back into the hydrangea thicket.  I watch for several minutes, no confirming sighting.

940  Spotted Towhee male appears out of the fence-climbing thicket and feeds on the ground, juncos be damned, they’re only here part of the year anyway, who needs ‘em?

945  Towhee retreats as suddenly all the juncos and the Golden-crowned Sparrow make like feathered popcorn, popping in seemingly constant turmoil.

950  I see the first collared-dove of the morning.  They roost in our evergreen magnolia with its heavy, protective, leathery leaves.  Good for sleeping in, and those species too clever to believe in daylight saving v. standard time, etc.  House Sparrows continue.

1040  I spot a robin in a neighbor’s shrub.  They never have anything to do with our feeders but often enjoy a good bath in one of our two bird baths, usually the taller one further from the windows.  The robins clean out the local berry vending plants and gobble up earthworms when it is wet enough to force them to the surface.  Right now we are about ten days without rain.  Worms deep beneath.

1055 I toss out a handful of peanuts, in shells.  Good for the cachers.  Scrub-jay lands within twenty seconds of my closing the door when I return inside.  He takes two in his beak and leaves.  If the squirrels are not quick to respond this jay will have carried off all the peanuts in less than five minutes.  I have had peanuts sprout in spring before…but never here.  Maybe he plants them in a neighbor’s garden.

 

1220PM  As I eat lunch I watch a swirl of juncos, a gray whirlpool, drops down from the shrubs to the ground.  Where had they gone and how/why they decide to return in a crowd?

1230  Bewick’s Wren on the suet log.  He feeds, looks around, gives me a stare through the window. More days than not I miss his visits, if he even comes daily.

 

1240 Golden-crowned Sparrow on the ground.  I believe this is a different individual  from the morning bird, with a less boldly colorful crown.

130  Outside to do some duties I look up and see collared-dives in treetops of three tallest trees on the horizon.

240pm  Juncos abounding, still, again, as always, as everywhere. I always tell my birding classes there are 600 million juncos in North America.  I am glad they out-number shoppers, sports fans, Amazon employees, even this week’s political lies.

330PM  A quick glance out the window…aha, the Yellow-rump, an Audubon’s Warbler, is on the suet log.  Flies off, poses on a low branch while I get a good binoc view, then decides he does not want his picture taken and vanishes.
I checked my records on eBird.  Last year I did not see a Yellow-rump in our garden until the first week of December.

5PM  I begin the evening dog walk.  It is past dusk, the sky on its way to being black.  Before we get out the garden gate I hear Canada Geese honking.  They are above the fog level, moving by smell or radar?  I know they often graze a nearby golf course and likely they are headed there, or leaving.  This time of year wandering geese flocks are a fixture in our Willamette Valley heavens.  Sometimes you can even see them.

Not a single starling or woodpecker nor any sighting of the Red-breasted Nuthatch but otherwise a typical day save the first fall appearance of a Yellow-rump.

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Nov 5, 2019
13 species

Canada Goose  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove  3
California Scrub-Jay  1
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  3
Bewick’s Wren  1
American Robin  1
House Sparrow  3
House Finch  2
Dark-eyed Junco  12
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     Audubon’s

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