Spring Has Begun to Spring

Tomorrow the Great Backyard Bird Count kicks off with four days of birders scouring their backyards, local parks and refuges for all things with feathered wings.

I’m looking forward to this year’s count and I’m hoping that others across Lewis County are getting ready to count with me.

This is an unusual year at my house. I’m seeing more Mourning Doves than ever before, have spotted a covey of California Quail (seven male, three females) in the bushes and have a large-ish flock of Evening Grosbeaks hanging around this year.

Most years I’ll see two or three Evening Grosbeaks as they travel through to places unknown. This year they have come to stay and have brought their friends.

Yesterday I counted 16 grosbeaks at the feeder.

I’m not the only one that is counting atypical numbers of grosbecks at the feeder, Janet Graham of Rochester is having the same problem — and I call it a problem only because it’s hard to keep the feeders filled when you have Evening Grosbeaks at the banquet table.

Just one Evening Grosbeak can down up to 95 black oil sunflower seeds in just five minutes.

Between the grosbeaks and the Pine Siskins, backyard bird feeding is getting to be an expensive hobby! I counted over 40 little Siskins this morning — 20 in the bushes and 20 more jostling for space at the feeders.

According to the Tweeters bird watch list, the first Violet-Green and Tree Swallows of the season have been spotted at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and Great Horned Owls are starting to nest.

Fae Marie Beck of Toledo wrote to tell me that she has been seeing a Purple Finch at her feeders. I have heard the luring love call of the Purple Finch in my own backyard and take that to be a sign that the finches are looking to catch the ear of a pretty girl.

House Finches may be as common as house flies in our area, but they are one of the more interesting birds to watch during the spring fling mating time.

The male House Finch sidles up to a likely female, offers her his best song and then offers her a bite to eat from his own beak.

It’s fun to watch, especially since the House Finch gals sit so still and straight, ignoring the crooning character during his whole display. The only indication you get that she’s interested is if or when she turns her head to accept his gift of regurgitated bird seed.

Gives a whole new meaning to, uh, romance.


Bonus for Project FeederWatch Participants

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has just announced that they will allow two months free access to the Birds of North America Online website database for Project FeederWatch participants, Feb. 15 through April 15.

I am excited about this free access, especially as nesting season gets closer.

This database is usually available for paid subscribers only, and is well worth the money.

For more information go to http://bna.birds.cornell.edu and check it out for yourself. There are several bird species accounts listed on the front page of the website that you can “try before you buy” a subscription.

Happy birding, everyone, I hope to see your bird list next week on the GBBC website!


Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and Outdoors enthusiast who lives in Cinebar.  Visit her photography blog, The (Almost) Daily Bird (blogs.chronline.com/dailybird), follow her on Twitter (ChronKim) or on facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle). Contact her at kim@almostdailynews.com, text or call 269-5017.