Friday, April 3, 2015

Some Unusual Birds

The intent of this post’s title is to suggest that the birds I am about to describe are not usually seen at Blue Jay Barrens.  This Wilson’s Snipe made me open my bird field guide to the section on shorebirds, a part of the book that is rarely needed to identify birds attracted to my dry, upland habitat.  I was working in the vegetable garden when this individual made a nearly vertical descent from the sky and landed among the Indian Grass stubble in the mowed field.

If the snipe was expecting wetland, it must have been thoroughly disappointed by the dryness of the field.  After turning from side to side for about a minute, it took off.  Hopefully, its next stop was more to its liking.

Most of my bird observations occur at the feeder.  In the past I’ve taken long walks around the property specifically looking for birds.  Often, moving a few hundred feet from the house takes me into a birdless void that ends only when I again get close to the yard.  Flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds have been moving in and out during the last few weeks.  This individual with the distinctive white patch at the back of the head was around for several days.

I’m used to observing the same birds for periods spanning months.  There are the usual year round residents, the summer visitors, and the winter visitors.  Occasionally, something out of the ordinary shows up.

Goldfinches and House Finches visit the feeder in large flocks.  Taking some time to sort through the flock can result in the discovery of a few surprises.

Thirty years ago, Purple Finches were regular winter visitors and visited the feeder in large flocks.  In recent years, I’ve not seen more than two or three pairs of this species in any winter season.

Back then, any reddish finch was most likely a Purple Finch.  I never expected anything else.

Then the first House Finches showed up.  Now the House Finch is the default choice when catching a glimpse of a reddish finch.

This year, another bird has joined the Goldfinch flock.  A casual glance can easily miss the similarly colored Pine Siskin foraging alongside the Goldfinches.

It’s not uncommon for Pine Siskins to flock with Goldfinches, but I don’t see them here very often.  This year I’ve counted five in a flock of about 40 Goldfinches.  It’s always interesting to have an uncommon species turn up, but I think I get more satisfaction out of observing the common species making daily progress through their yearly cycle.


  1. Hi Steve.. I was so excited to see your Snipe and realizing that was the bird I had seen the day before and had gotten a not so great photo. So I went to see my picture and never got back here to comment . I wanted to say I have Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls in the flock of Goldfinches I have all winter. Usually 6 Siskins, and Redpolls in the group!
    Our Redwings came in last week, along with the Cowbirds and Grackles, I call them the clean up crew.
    Thanks again for the ID :)


    1. Hi, Grace. I've also seen things on people's blogs that were just the thing I was just wondering about. Funny how that happens. Glad to hear my encounter helped you. It sounds like spring might finally be coming to Maine.

  2. How pretty, Steve. Happy Easter!

  3. Happy Easter, Lois. I hope everything is well with you and your husband aboard Freedom of the Seas.