It seems as if the March winds blow the little goldfinches to our corner of the forest. They arrive in flocks, chirping and singing their twittery songs as if excited to find our feeders and birdbaths.
he males have barely begun donning their brighter gold feathers so most of the birds are duller greenish gray this time of year. They scuffle and hop from feeders to nearby trees and back. Then a group will descend on the birdbath for a drink, trying to keep balance on the glazed ceramic edge as they take turns bobbing up and down like ‘drinking duck’ toys.
At some invisible signal the flock will fly off into the deeper forest for a while and later return when the winds blow or dinner calls.
American Goldfinch on Coneflower
As September begins and summer winds down, we may soon be saying goodbye to some of the summer birds in the forest. Two pairs of American Goldfinches have been with us all summer while most of their friends just passed through, heading farther north I assume. In a few weeks we will likely see more and eventually most will head south for the winter. Meanwhile they are fun to watch as they land, swaying, on coneflowers and snack on the ripe seeds.
Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Hummingbirds have been wildly entertaining all summer, zooming from one feeder to another and squabbling over territory. Three young siblings seemed to play tag as they raced from one area to another at amazing speeds! Eventually they stopped to rest a few minutes on a tiny twig but flying off at the site of the others. In our area the hummingbirds will leave in early October so we have a few more weeks to enjoy their antics.
Many Robins stay around for the winter although there will be flocks pass through on their way south. We have seen young Robins grow and lose their juvenile speckled chests as they learned to find their own food. No doubt the parents are tired after nesting and hatching hungry youngsters and finally getting them out of the nest and on their own. There is plenty of food and our winters are not usually too harsh for them to stay.
Northern Parula Warbler
Most of the warblers will likely head south soon. We have not seen Prothonotary warblers for several weeks. There are many other small golden warblers still here but they are shy and not easy to see in the green branches. Yesterday a Kentucky warbler made a brief appearance and we have noticed a blue winged Parula warbler in the area. We may not notice when they leave but I will certainly miss their quick flash of golden yellow in the trees when they go.
I feel lucky to have been able to observe these avian neighbors for the season and those that leave us for the winter will be most welcome when they return in the spring.
By mid-summer we are grateful for the busy bug eating birds. Not only do they keep the mosquito, gnat and flies under control, they are also wildly entertaining to watch!
While many birds such as robins and even hummingbirds do eat flying or crawling bugs, there are some acrobatic fliers who specialize in snatching insects from the air. One of our favorite visitors is a Wood Peewee we refer to as ‘Herman’ (as in ‘Peewee Herman’). He sits atop a plant hook or branch, watching in all directions and suddenly swoops on an unsuspecting moth or gnat, snapping his beak with relish.
The peewee seems to perform somersaults and other stunts in the air as he grabs his meals. Often bug wings will still be drifting down as the bird returns to his perch to watch for another snack. He sits there quietly and then sings ‘pee weee’ (upnote) ‘pee weee’ (down note). The simple song is often echoed by a peewee in another part of the woods.
Another acrobatic bug eater stays near the treetops. I think it is a pine warbler although there are so many little similar warblers I can’t be sure. The bird is very small and very fast and flits from twig to leaf finding insects near the trees. Since he is small, quick and greenish gold, he is difficult to spot as he collects meals amid the leafy trees.
A third resident bug eater, the Acadian Flycatcher is even more difficult to recognize although he ventures into the air more than the warblers. This tiny pale gray bird never stays in one place long enough to focus on him. He dives on an insect from a perch and then flits to another branch to catch another, always darting and sometimes even seems to fly backwards with amazing maneuverability. His bill snapping signals success as he grabs anything he sees.
Wood PeeWee taking off
One wonders how many bugs these birds eat in a day! They are always busy and they seem to enjoy swooping and flitting in the treetops and above the open areas to catch a meal, as we enjoy watching them!