Friday, February 25, 2011

Feather Weather

Lots of "brrrrdies" showing up at the feeders now that the temperatures have dipped into the teens here in our usually maritime-moderated habitat. Everything from big cottony snowflakes to nasty pellets of graupel fell on us in the last 48 hours.

Very little of it stuck (just enough to require vigorous scraping of windshields in the morning and careful foot placement while going down outdoor stairs), but the accompanying cold has driven a raccoon into taking shelter beneath our tarp-covered picnic table, most likely has encouraged the #@!* rat to sneak into the engine of my Subaru again (reminder to self: bang on hood), and fortunately for us, has sent hungry, feather-fluffed birds to the feeders outside the window.

This year has seen the return of house finches--we used to have tons of these pretty birds here until a Cooper's hawk moved into the neighborhood, so I'm glad now to have both hawk and finches in the area again. This male-female pair has stopped by every day and yesterday were accompanied by two other males:

A few years ago, Bewick's wrens turned up in the neighborhood--perhaps their tendency to flit about low to the ground and through shrubs helped them evade hawks and establish a foothold in our garden. I love these little guys--they're very brave and feisty, sing prettily and loudly, and growl a loud, buzzing call that clearly says "shove off" when they see a dog, a cat, or anybody else they don't like.

This little wren asserts himself at both the suet and the sunflower seed feeder, refusing to let the brawnier finches and sparrows and the little-tough-guy chickadees push him around:

We've also had normally ground-feeding juncos perching on the suet feeder (they must have been inspired by the rest of the gang) and visits from a ruby-crowned kinglet (a new species on both my lame life list and at our feeder). Yesterday, another brand-new bird showed up--I'm pretty sure it's the "Myrtle" form of the yellow-rumped warbler (charmingly also known as the butterbutt). If so, perhaps it's a harbinger of spring on the way as migrants pick their way north for the breeding season, despite the mercury's plunge south.

I am also pleased to see that Edward Scissorbill, the neighborhood crow with the misshapen beak, has survived the winter and is once again surveying his kingdom from his utility-line perch with his mate at his side (she was too coy to stick around for this picture).