Cold Day, Channel Birds

Clear and calm overnight resulted in the coldest night (and day) so far this season. 

Although the sun was shining for the first half of the day, clouds started moving over this afternoon.

I did not spend too much time outside, but did get out on an afternoon boat trip around the causeway and back through the channel. We cruised slowly, but did not see much in the way of bird life until going through the channel.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Purple Finch

I took a short walk around the neighborhood around noon after dropping my dad off at the airport. I saw no sign of the Purple Finch, though other birds (juncos, primarily) seemed to be acting a little strange. I’m not sure what was going on, but some of them seemed a little agitated.

This afternoon I was walking down to the harbor to help move something and happened to notice the Purple Finch in a mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) tree eating berries. Fortunately I had my camera (for just this reason), and was able to grab a couple of photos before continuing on to the harbor.

The bird was still in the same trees eating berries a little while later on my way back home, but it wasn’t long before it flew off. I did talk to one of the residents of the house who said he had seen the bird on at least one morning previously, but did not know what it was.

It’s not clear to me where the bird is spending most of its time (I’ve checked the same trees many other times in the past week without seeing it), but based on what I saw today, it seems like a good idea to focus on mountain ash trees, or other lingering fruit on ornamental trees/shrubs in the neighborhoods between Jeff Davis and downtown (and perhaps even further away).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Cooperative Creeper

Today was one of those with heavy clouds where even mid-day light levels are more like dusk . Snow continued to fall throughout much of the day, occasionally mixing with rain, before turning to rain this evening. However, it did not accumulate here in the neighborhoods where I live.

I did take a drive out to look at Silver Bay and was surprised how much snow was on the ground starting at the top of the hill coming out of Jamestown Bay. It looked like 3 inches or more, and the road was quite slippery. The amount of snow on the ground decreased again past Whale Park, though there was still more than in town.

Lucy let me know about a Canvasback on Swan Lake this morning. It wasn’t until after lunch that I was able to go take a look.

Just a relatively small opening running along part of the Lake Street shore between the peninsula and the radio station had open water. Many gulls were loafing on the ice, with a few bathing in the open water.

The Canvasback was diving at the edge of the ice and bringing up vegetation (maybe <em>Chara</em>?) to eat. For most of the time the American Coot was right there ready to grab a bite (it can dive, but seems to prefer to grab food from other birds sometimes), and an American Wigeon and Ring-necked Duck also tried to get in on the food action as well.

Just before I arrived at the lake, I had noticed some birds (juncos, mostly) in the bushes and trees on the north side of Hirst Street. Among them was a Brown Creeper that was foraging low down where it was easy (except for the dim light) to photograph.

When reviewing my photos at home, I was surprised to find the Brown Creeper was banded. It probably was the same bird they captured at BMS while banding last week (about .5 miles away from where I saw it).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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First Snow

Calm and clear conditions allowed overnight temperatures to finally drop into the 20s for the first time this season. The cold looks to be short-lived, however, as the forecast calls for rain tomorrow.

My day was fairly scheduled with work calls, but I did take a short (~10 minute) saunter down the street and back first thing (for me) this morning, and another longer look around this afternoon as the sun dropped towards the horizon.

I did not find the Purple Finch either time, though I did hear a different sounding bird in a dense spruce tree. Unfortunately I never saw it, and I’m not sure whether it was a different call of a more typical bird or the finch.

It’s interesting to me how the activity level varies from yard to yard.  Sometimes a given yard is completely silent, and at other times there are lots of birds. I think some of it is just the happenstance of the timing of my walk and the movements of the juncos (and some other birds), but sometimes I wonder if at least in part it might be due to predator activity. Perhaps it would be interesting to do a bird (language) sit with multiple people in my neighborhood sometime.

Late this evening as my day drew to a close, I noticed it had started snowing outside. Not much had fallen, just enough to turn the ground white, but snow has a transforming effect, especially when it’s falling at night, so I couldn’t resist taking a couple of pictures of this first snow (at sea level) of the season.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Fall Dunlin

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Finch Quest

 Mostly clear skies prevailed as the day dawned. I got up before the sun was high enough to be seen over the mountains to the southeast (not especially challenging as we’re headed into the last 5 weeks before winter solstice) and was a little surprised to find temperatures seemed to be above freezing.

I was out earlier than usual to wander the neighborhood in hopes of finding the Purple Finch that Rowan has now seen twice, and Connor saw briefly yesterday afternoon. Both of Rowan’s sightings were in the morning, so it seemed worthwhile to look around before I had a work call mid-morning.

While standing at the edge of the street just outside my yard, I noticed a different looking bird fly over. It was somewhat difficult to judge size, but one thing that did stand out was a distinct notch in the tail. I wasn’t sure at the time, but I now suspect that may have been the Purple Finch (spoiler:  if it was, I didn’t see it again during my time walking the neighborhood).

Although the air had seemed warmer than expected when I first stepped out, it was definitely still a chilly morning. I was thankful for insulating layers and calm conditions. I had seen the weather forecast was for high winds in some parts of northern Southeast, and as I looked at the streaked clouds above, I wondered if they were an indicator of fierce winds aloft.

After a short time, I was joined by a friend and together we walked the neighborhoods looking and listening for the elusive Purple Finch. We saw lots of juncos, and more White-crowned Sparrows than usual  for here, but no finch. Shortly before calling it good for the morning, we did see a raven harassing an accipiter that I think was a Northern Goshawk as they both flew directly overhead.

This afternoon I gave it another try. This time the streaked clouds were gone, though there wer some puffy clouds lower down. It was intermittently breeze at ground level, adding an additional chill (which I had thankfully anticipated and worn an extra layer). Given the lack of streaked/sculpted clouds up high, I am curious if that indicated a drop in wind, or if it had more to do with a change in the moisture and or temperature, and the clouds had simply dissipated.

The closest thing I saw to the targetted species was a flock of about 50 Pine Siskins flying over. Connor was out looking this time as well (he and his grandpa had come back from hunting relatively early after hearing someone blowing a deer call further up where they had intended to go), and he also did not find the finch. (I was amused when nearly walked right past me without seeing me while I sat in a rocking recliner that is alongside Park Street. I was in plain sight, but his attention was focused higher up.)

Speaking of not paying attention, I finally found the oak tree I’ve been wondering about for a couple of years. It turns out I’ve walked by it many times where it is a prominent tree in a yard on Bioka Street. 

This year the crows seem to be visiting bird feeders more than I remember in prior years. Discouraging them is a work in progress (on the other hand, I’ve not seen so many pigeons in the neighborhood lately).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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