By: Grange Co-op’s Laura Fleming
The busy summer has given way to a quieter autumn. By now, most of our migrating songbirds are on their way south, though a few stragglers stop by now and then. A beautiful Yellow Warbler stopped by recently for a drink and a few insects off my butterfly bushes, (a new bird to add to my yard list!), and I still see a few hummingbirds migrating through. I went through about 20lbs. of sugar this summer, filling five hummingbird feeders daily. Whew! Though the nectar in my feeders isn’t disappearing as fast as in the height of summer, I still need to remind myself to keep changing the solution every 3-4 days, feeders empty or not. As the seasons progress, the mix of birds in my yard also changes.
The chickadees and nuthatches are once again making their presence known. Though they have been around all year, while sharing sunflower feeders with grosbeaks, red-winged blackbirds, and finches, they seem to take a backstage during the summer. At the moment, only the black-capped chickadees are making use of my offerings, but I will keep my eyes open for the chestnut-back chickadees to return shortly, and perhaps I’ll be fortunate to see the mountain chickadees again this year, as autumn turns to winter. I’m seeing both white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches foraging for sunflower seeds, suet, and nuts along with the natural seeds and insects available. As I write this, I have been watching a red-breasted nuthatch prying the pine nuts out of the cones on one of my dwarf mugo pines.
Several sparrow species have recently returned to my yard this mid-September. White-crowned sparrows, golden-crowned sparrows, fox sparrows, and perhaps a Lincoln’s sparrow, (?? a cute little fellow, looking much like a song sparrow, who raises a crest on his head when he’s excited??), all seem to have arrived around the same time and are enjoying taking turns bathing in the water bubbler in my garden pond. Great fun! They also appreciate rummaging around in my ground feeders filled with millet, safflower, and sunflower seeds. The spotted towhees and juncos have also started to make a daily appearance at my feeders, yet another sign that fall is in the air.
I still have a small flock of goldfinches, now in their drab winter plumage, dominating the sunflower chips, along with a few pine siskins. The stellar jays and acorn woodpeckers are still ever present enjoying the suet and nuts I supply. And this year I’ve been gifted with a rather large flock of band-tailed pigeons. They appear every morning and evening eager to finish the sunflower chips the finches have left and the millet left over from the mourning doves. It is comical to watch these large birds trying to balance on my small hanging feeders, two or three at a time!
For the first time in many years, a flicker has come in to take advantage of the Tree Icing, (suet and peanut butter mix), which I’ve spread on a few tree limbs. And periodically a sharp-shinned hawk comes soaring through the yard looking for an easy meal. Very exciting!
So, though summer has once again slipped by, I’m looking forward to a yard full of our resident winter birds. With every season, nature provides us with a reason to get outside, watch, enjoy and learn about all the creatures with who we share this earth.