Tell the snow it’s spring

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Rare sight: American Robin at a feeder. I thank the earth(worm)-covering white stuff.

Chance of light snow was in the forecast, then it started to snow and kept at it all day. The feeders were very busy. The ground is snow-covered again.

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A male Goldfinch and female Purple Finch at the nyjer feeder.

It is meteorological Spring (March, April, May) though astronomical Spring is not until March 20. The weathermen say it was the warmest winter for at least the last 60 years in New Hampshire and many other places.

Weather.com: Record Warm Winter for Many in New England; Record Wet in South Florida and Seattle

Purple pose

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Over the weekend, one male and one female Purple Finch visited the feeders… but at different times.

They like black oil sunflower seeds. They do not flit, like chickadees and titmice, so it is easy to get pictures of them.

Your backyard sunflower seed feeder is probably a great place to look for Purple Finches if you live within their winter range. This species moves very erratically from year to year, so if you don’t have them this year, there’s always a chance they’ll arrive next year.

What are these speckledy birds?

purple finch female

Yesterday I spied these birds out back and wondered what they were. Grabbed my camera and took some photos so I could go online and search out an ID.

Maybe the more easily camouflaged female of some familiar species?

purple finch females

Yes. Purple finches, it seems.

(The one on the left seems to have been eating something red and sticky.)

Cornell Lab of Ornithology (click through for photos)…

Male Purple Finches are delicate pink-red on the head and breast, mixing with brown on the back and cloudy white on the belly. Female Purple Finches have no red. They are coarsely streaked below, with strong facial markings including a whitish eyestripe and a dark line down the side of the throat.

And…

Among the small forest birds like chickadees, kinglets, and nuthatches, Purple Finches are large and chunky. Their powerful, conical beaks are larger than any sparrow’s. The tail seems short and is clearly notched at the tip.

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Here is a male last winter.

Wikipedia article on sexual dimorphism includes a section on birds

Plumage dimorphism, in the form of ornamentation or coloration, also varies, though males are typically the more ornamented or brightly colored sex.[48] Such differences have been attributed to the unequal reproductive contributions of the sexes.[49] This difference produces a stronger female choice since they have more risk in producing offspring. In some species, the male’s contribution to reproduction ends at copulation, while in other species the male becomes the main caregiver. Plumage polymorphisms have evolved to reflect these differences and other measures of reproductive fitness, such as body condition[50] or survival.[51] The male phenotype sends signals to females who then choose the ‘fittest’ available male.

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These two seem to be in conversation!

Swingin’ on a seed tray

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A gathering of seed eaters.

Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, and two Purple Finches crunching millet and black oil sunflower seeds on the platform feeder. I think there’s an American Tree Sparrow digging around in there too.

The cardinal and the purple finches are kinda clashy, color-wise.

Bird watching a(nother) snowstorm

White-throated Sparrow close up

One White-throated Sparrow.

More big snow yesterday. What else was there to do but watch birds?

Anyway, it was one of my two counting days per week for Project Feederwatch.

FeederWatchers periodically count the birds they see at their feeders from November through early April and send their counts to Project FeederWatch. FeederWatch data help scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.

White-breasted Nuthatch

One White-breasted Nuthatch.

I bet there are two that visit our feeders, I just didn’t see them at the same time on Sunday or Monday.

Mourning Dove

Subtly beautiful colors, a Mourning Dove.

I like their calmness, as the other birds flit and flap. The most I saw at once: 7.

Downy Woodpecker male

A male Downy Woodpecker, black and white with a little red cap.

In two days I counted 96 individual birds of 19 species. Three downies, one male and two females.

titmouse

Five Tufted Titmice in total, but with the definite impression I am missing some as they move so quickly. Although not quickly enough for the snow. This is the first time I noticed snow building up on some birds! What a February we are having. And today is only the 10th.

Purple Finch Valentine

A little birdie Valentine: Purple Finch.

The state bird of New Hampshire looks lovely in snow. I counted two males yesterday.

Starling

The pestiferous though kinda pretty European Starling.

At one point there were 9 in the birch trees watching the feeders, as I stood on the other side of the sliding glass door and watched them. They are spooked by people, still, but I bet they will learn fast to ignore us.

They seem to eat anything but especially like my homemade suet dough. So do the bluebirds – who are not afraid of me. I scared the starlings away a few times so the bluebirds could eat too. I may need to consider a special starling-excluding feeder if I get too many of them.

This week’s Project Feederwatch totals…

Mourning Dove 7
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 3
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 5
Black-capped Chickadee 10
Tufted Titmouse 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Eastern Bluebird 6
European Starling 9
American Tree Sparrow 12
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 12
Northern Cardinal 13
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Purple Finch 2
Pine Siskin 1
American Goldfinch 5

Flickr album: February 9 snowstorm birds

Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow, with its rusty-red buzzcut hairdo.

Steve Grinley: Bird Feeders Help Birds Survive, and Breed Successfully

It has been a harsh winter here in New England and feeding birds can certainly help them survive. Birds that have stayed the winter or migrated from further north to feast on natural seeds and fruit in our area will be finding that the winter supply of natural food is being depleted. Our resident birds appreciate the added handout that feeders provide. In addition to the nourishment that bird seed and suet provide, the birds expend less energy and burn less fat, helping them to survive the cold. A number of birds that don’t normally stay the winter or that may be here accidentally and are not used to New England weather are particularly helped by seed and suet at feeders.

Purple finch, check!

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Where have you been, my pretty friends?

First Purple Finch sighting this winter.

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I was careful to ID them and be sure they weren’t House Finches. This backside view shows color on the wings too, which is not present on house finches, I read.

Cornell: Recognizing House Finches and Purple Finches

House finch “males vary in color from orange-red to a deeper purple-red, but wings lack much coloring and the flanks are streaked.”

PURPLE FINCH

PBase: Purple Finch vs House Finch

The most obvious field mark is the bill. The bill of the Purple Finch is conical shaped whereas the upper mandible of the House Finch is curved downward.

We had a visit from House Finches in November. See pics HERE.

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Two purple finches and a tree sparrow on the hanging seed tray.

The Purple Finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” For many of us, they’re irregular winter visitors to our feeders, although these chunky, big-beaked finches do breed in northern North America and the West Coast.

And…

Purple Finches readily come to feeders for black oil sunflower seeds.

This is my 36th “backyard bird”!