The weather was pretty nice for a mid-winter weekend, with temperature in the 40s and sunshine, and there were birds at all the feeders, but not in the numbers of the last two weeks. My conclusion is that, like many of us, they had reservations for New Year festivities elsewhere. Also, we were only watching for about 90 minutes on Saturday a.m., and Sunday p.m. The time one watches definitely affects the report, partly in species seen, but also in the maximum number of each species seen at any one time.
This weekend was different in that several species that had been turning up, didn’t. The English (House) Sparrow, the European Starling, Crow and Robins were all among the missing. The Robins spent time during the week gobbling down any remaining Holly Berries, and are now waiting for the 2017 crop.
On the other hand, we’ve noticed that a number of birds not often seen around the Niger Seed (Thistle) seem to be taking a like to it in addition to the Juncos and Goldfinches. We’ve seen Mourning Doves, Carolina Wrens, Titmice and House Finches also sampling the Niger. We were looking at the House Finches on the deck rail on Saturday a.m. when I realized that there was a Purple Finch among them! They are very irregular, and we haven’t seen one here for three or four years, but this was unmistakable. What made it so easy to pick out is that it was right next to a male House Finch, and the difference in their coloring, at a distance of no more than ten feet was exceptional! One of my very experienced birding friends described a Purple Finch this way: “Imagine you’re looking at a House Finch, but all of a sudden you realize that it looks like it’s been dipped in raspberry juice…that’s what a Purple Finch looks like.” He was absolutely right, and it was a thrilling sight. He didn’t just make a solo appearance either, but we continued to see him at the Niger Seed, at the heated bird bath for a drink, and later at the Sunflower Heart feeder.
A perfect coda to the weekend came when the biggest woodpecker there is, the Pileated Woodpecker, made a brief appearance within the perimeter. When a bird is more than 16″ long, has a 28″ wingspan, a bright red cockade and a voice like a Stentorian, it demands your respect, and it certainly got ours!