Change in the air around birdbath

Where have all the beautiful goldfinches gone? Are they still coming to your feeders? We continue to enjoy large numbers of them, but they’ve changed. They’ve completed their fall molt and are wearing their subdued winter plumage. It will be interesting to see what their numbers are in the coming months. Some will winter with us but others continue moving southward. Right now, they’re making huge inroads in the black sunflower seed supply.

Eighteen bird species in half an hour is a good count for any birding location. When it is enjoyed from the comfort of a kitchen chair, it’s a sign that fall is picking up speed and the numbers of migrants piling into our region are growing daily. It was a shock to see one species that arrived overnight. It seems a little early for the golden-crowned sparrows to return but there they were. At least a half dozen were making the water fly in two birdbaths. They had been traveling for hours and a good bath seemed needed.

I’m confidant the sparrows now moving through our yards aren’t going to settle in for the winter. They are birds that will probably winter in California. A population from that state nests in Alaska. They start their migration earlier than birds that didn’t go as far north. The golden-crowned sparrows that will return to our yards could be weeks away from showing up.

The yard was boiling over with birds, but not all were migrants. Much of the action was what we see when an obvious change in the weather is coming. It wasn’t cold outdoors. If anything, it was on the mild side. You could feel the rain was on its way. Birds are more susceptible to changes in the air pressure than we are and they sense when a change is coming. Insect activity picks up too, and a combination of factors creates a restlessness among the birds.

They’re all over the trees looking for food. Wet weather on the way doesn’t keep them away from the bird bath. If anything, it puts them in the mood to soak themselves. Quarrels break out between the robins and the starlings or the goldfinches and the towhees. Even the Anna’s hummingbirds take offense at the sight of chickadees. Many birds were coming to feed, but just as many were headed for the water.

Some of the action can also be traced to different food sources the yard offers. We see and hear this type of activity every fall. Mountain ash berries are ripe. So are the dogwood buttons. The madrona berries are still green but being checked on. This food attracts the Eurasian collared-doves, the flickers, the starlings and the robins. Taken all at the same time, they are a very noisy crowd.

The golden-crowned sparrows were the morning’s big surprise, but another one was a bird we only see a few times a year. A mourning dove arrived in the middle of the activity, but why it stopped by is a mystery. Maybe it heard the partying that was going on. It enjoyed a drink of water from the ground-level birdbath and made its visit a short one.

Our busy morning eventually slowed down and the birds seemed to drift away for a time. That was probably a good idea, as all the commotion is bound to attract the attention of other birds. Lots of noise at the feeders triggers an eventual visit from a hungry hawk, and that sends everyone into hiding.

Migrating birds are stirring up the birdwatching activities this month. Every morning can bring someone who arrived overnight. That’s when most of the small passerines travel. It’s more safe. Hawks hunt during the daytime so they only have those owls to look out for. And, we’ve a lot of bird activity to look forward to before Halloween arrives.