Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Jo Simon's Question about Geese

Canada Goose

I’m spending much of my time indoors staring at my adorable grandbaby, but have been seeing lots of geese here in Duluth. By lunchtime on September 30, counters at Hawk Ridge had already counted over 4,100 this season. 

The time-honored question so evocative when geese are flying overhead is Rachel Field’s. What exactly is that something that told the wild geese it was time to fly? WXPR listener Jo Simons, who managed to get a nice video, with sound, of Canada Geese migrating overhead, wondered about the even more obvious question—“What the heck are they honking so loud about???” 

Those goose flocks are usually made up of genetically related birds. Birds hatched in a given year stay with their parents through migration and their first winter. Two- and three-year-olds and even older birds also often gravitate to their parents during migration and on their wintering grounds, meeting up with this year’s batch of siblings. Because the parents also have siblings and parents, the flocks, which grow larger and larger as birds progress southward, include lots of cousins and second-cousins-once-removed and on and on. Siblings from previous years meet up for the first time with their 100% genetic siblings from this year if their parents both survived. If one of their parents has died, they’ll meet their half-siblings from this year plus many family members of their new step-parent. Geese that haven’t met up with their own family members can be welcomed into these flocks, too, so there's a lot of mixing. 

Canada Goose

Drawing family trees for geese would be very complex. The oldest known wild Canada Geese were shot by hunters, while presumably still quite healthy, when they were over 30 years of age. Most Canada Geese start forming pair bonds when they’re 2 years old, and start nesting when about 4, which means a 30-year-old goose has probably produced over 25 batches of young. 

Canada Goose

Not all those batches survive, of course, but still, a goose family tree drawing would have to show at least an order of magnitude more branches descending from each individual than your run-of-the-mill human family tree. 

We usually notice migrating geese winging over by their calls first, so Jo’s question really is an obvious one, but I don’t know of any poem that addresses it. What the heck are they honking so loud about??? Rachel Field heard “winter in their cry,” and that may be part of the goose discussion, but the truth is, only the geese know for sure. We mere humans, incapable of communicating with even the most articulate carbon-based lifeforms with whom we share this planet, can only speculate. Are they discussing the weather? Catching up on the latest gossip? They’re probably not griping about the presidential debate—WIFI is hard to access in many wetlands and, so far at least, geese are not known to carry cell phones, so even though habitat protection, climate change, and other issues affect them deeply, geese were mercifully spared that travesty. 

Helen turns 99

Sometimes their honks make me think of my mother-in-law. When she was living with us, I’d drive her from Duluth to Port Wing for her bi-weekly card club and she’d blurt out observations about every little thing she saw out the car window. “When are they going to finish up with the road construction here? Dad and I went to that Choo Choo Bar and Grill with Uncle Butchie once. Look at all the deer in that field! Haven’t they torn down that decrepit barn yet? Look—that’s where Dad and I spotted the bear with three cubs once! Florence’s garden sure looks pretty this year. Hey—are those Sandhill Cranes? Who left that trash on the Lutheran Church lawn? 

Like my mother-in-law, geese may be commenting in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way on the familiar and unfamiliar sights they’re noticing. Or parent geese may be pointing out important landmarks to their young to help them navigate on future trips—with so many families in each flock, that alone would produce a lot of honking. 

The leaders of flocks tend to be older birds who know the way, taking turns as the lead bird grows weary. But with so much mixing, many of the birds in a flock may have learned different routes from their own parents before pairing with the mate who met up with his or her parents this time. So at every juncture, some birds may be back-seat driving—or, in this case, back-of-the-flock navigating. Minnesota-nice geese might be passive-aggressively saying, “Uh, we might consider banking left here?” while geese who spent time in New York or Chicago might be blurting out obscenities while insisting that it’s quicker to follow I-35 than the St. Louis River. 

Who knows? We spend millions every year trying to figure out whether there might be intelligent life forms on other planets or in other solar systems or galaxies, assuming that if we found them, we would be able to communicate with them, when we don't have a clue what the wild geese right here on earth are honking about.  

Canada Goose

Ovenbird Songs


When I was a little girl, my family went to Chicago forest preserves a lot for picnics with aunts and uncles and cousins, and I’d often break away from the hubbub to take a walk by myself in the woods. There was plenty of bird song in spring and early summer, which I loved to listen to, but I didn’t know how to listen—how to pick out the individual voices to appreciate how each component contributes to the symphony—any more than I knew how to listen to orchestral or even 50s band music and pick out individual instruments.  

Back then, the only birds I recognized by song were the cardinal and House Sparrow, and if I didn’t see them or hear them in a spot where I knew cardinals or sparrows would be, I couldn’t be certain that it wasn’t some other bird singing that exact same song. College enlightened me on both scores—music appreciation classes taught me to differentiate musical instruments and to pick out different musical themes that could be going on simultaneously. And ornithology, in combination with my constant birding, taught me how to listen for each avian instrument and the nuances that would help me differentiate individuals and work out the context for different vocalizations. 

In the same way that seeing instruments and watching them played by orchestra members helped me learn them, watching birds singing made it easier for me to learn their songs. We heard one bird singing teacher, teacher, TEACHER! during my first week of field ornithology, but it wasn’t until the second week, when we finally saw the Ovenbird singing away, that the song solidified in my brain. It’s a song I must have heard over and over as a child in those Chicago forest preserves, but hearing it in class, I didn’t recognize it at all. It’s conspicuous enough that Robert Frost’s poem, “The Oven Bird,” is entirely about the song. The poem begins: 

There is a singer everyone has heard, /Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird, /Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.

It may have been a little presumptuous of Robert Frost to say “everyone” has heard this singer, but anyone who has ever walked in the woods in New England, the Appalachians, the Midwest, mid-Atlantic states, or forests of central and eastern Canada from May through July has definitely been in earshot, whether or not they were listening. And many people notice that loud, ringing song without knowing who’s singing it.  


I’ve lost a lot of my high-frequency hearing, but have no trouble hearing Ovenbirds, who sing at a nice, low frequency. The “teacher teacher” mnemonic works because the song sounds like a repeated word of two syllables, but each of those words is actually composed of 3 to 5 separate notes which our mere human ears can’t resolve. Ovenbirds hear every nuance and can recognize one another’s unique, individual songs. After working out territorial boundaries, Ovenbirds are fine with their neighbors singing in their proper territories, but they chase off Ovenbirds singing a different tune as one who doesn’t belong there. And neighbors often sing together, one starting up and a neighbor or two joining in a split second later. This may contribute to the ventriloquial quality of the Ovenbird song, which makes it harder for a predator to locate them by sound.  


In addition to the song, ornithologists have described 13 different calls produced by Ovenbirds during the breeding season, 7 by males and 6 by females. Their research suggests that at least 11 of these vocalizations involve communication between the sexes. This array of calls may take the place of some visual signals given by more boldly colored or sexually dimorphic species. 

The Ovenbird is a lot more than just its wonderful song, but that’s a topic for another blogpost. 


Monday, September 28, 2020

For the Mammals

White-tailed Deer

Watching birds makes most of us more attuned to nature in general, so a mammal report once in a while isn’t out of keeping on a birding blog. Ever since my daughter and son-in-law and their dog Muxy fled New York to move in with us with us in April, we’ve been having a banner year as far as mammals go. Katie has always loved squirrels, and I can’t remember ever having so many healthy squirrels visiting our yard. Usually we see several babies in spring but only one or two, if we’re lucky, in fall. But this year we saw lots of babies in spring and right now there are at least four brand new babies visiting my feeders. 

Three baby squirrels
I don't have a photo with all four. 

Squirrels haven’t been the most prolific mammals in the yard—we’ve had more baby cottontail rabbits in this one summer than I’d seen in my entire life before this. I got bazillions of photos, especially of one little guy I call “Baby Big Ears,” who has weird flaps enlarging both ears in an adorable way. 

Eastern Cottontail "Baby Big-Ears"

Baby cottontail

I guess it makes sense that the year I get a brand-new baby grandson, who is also a mammal, would be the very year I get a bumper crop of baby squirrels and bunnies. 

Red fox next door!
I took this photo in March, and saw the adults or heard crows swearing at them most days
through April. Now I'm not seeing them, but neighbors still are. 

We also have a pair of foxes somewhere in the neighborhood. I presume they had kits this year, though I haven’t talked to anyone who’s seen any. I myself haven’t seen the adults since spring, but neighbors keep telling me about their sightings.  

White-tailed Deer in yard

White-tailed Deer in yard

For a while this spring, a small group of white-tailed deer were jumping over our chain link fence to feed in the yard. That ended as babies started being born—they’d be too little for such a high jump—but my neighbor Jeanne called a few times to let me know about photo ops when twin fawns were in her yard. She’s also told me when the buck is around. Last week, he was in our backyard munching on cherry tree leaves, but hightailed it out of here when a car pulled up before I was set up for good photos.  

Twin fawns at my neighhor's place

White-tailed Buck

I see chipmunks every day. I presume someone in the neighborhood has been feeding them—I never even tried to feed a chipmunk until last week, when one started jumping onto my shoe and once even climbing up my pants leg begging for peanuts. Now it will sit on my shoe to open the peanut.

Eastern Chipmunk eating a peanut on my shoe while I'm wearing it.

That one’s pretty funny—he first stuffs his cheeks with birdseed, and then comes up for a peanut. He opens the peanut, stuffs the kernels into his cheeks, and even when they seem filled beyond capacity, he asks for another peanut, and another. If he can’t squeeze any more kernels into his cheeks, he simply carries off the last whole peanut in his mouth. He must have a huge cache of winter provisions. Before he started doing that whole process on my foot, I got a video of it. 

Eastern Chipmunk stuffing peanut kernels into its pouches

In 2003, for the first time in the 22 years we’d lived here at that point, a red squirrel was hanging out somewhere near me and I got to see it a lot, mainly eating sunflower seeds at my feeder until it disappeared in early winter. Now I’ve been seeing one for a couple of weeks. I first saw it on September 8 or 9th though it ran up the tree and I couldn’t relocate it. For a short time I was actually afraid I’d misidentified a young gray squirrel, but then I not only saw it but got a nice photo on September 10. 

Red Squirrel on Peabody Street

Then I didn’t see it for a few days and figured my corner really isn’t appropriate habitat. But the little guy is now coming daily, taking cones from a spruce tree next to the house and carrying them off to its winter cache somewhere in the back of our yard or one of the yards behind us. So far it hasn’t shown any interest at all in either my bird feeders or my bird baths. I’m thrilled that this little guy might be sticking around even though the species is notorious for eating bird eggs and nestlings. At least that won’t be an issue until spring. 

Northern Flying Squirrel at my bird bath!

Deer mouse

Skunk taking a drink

I have trail cams set up to keep track of activity at my bird baths. If not for them, I’d not even be aware that a flying squirrel, a few deer mice, and a skunk had been in my yard. One mammal who’s visited twice since spring hasn’t shown up on the cams, and no one has seen it, but when I wake up to find our sturdy chain-link gate knocked down and the heavy-duty pipes holding up my feeders all bent out of shape and the feeders broken, it’s pretty easy to figure out that a bear was here. That happened twice in August but not since. 

A bear on Peabody Street
This is from 2018, but looked pretty much the same this year. 

Finally, we’ve had quite a few bats flying about this summer. I only saw them when I’d be sitting out on the back porch on pleasant evenings listening to birds singing vespers. I can’t hear the ultrasonic sounds bats make, but somehow listening to a robin at twilight while a bat flutters by is a perfect way to end a June day. 

Last night, September 27, when I took my dog out at 11 pm and made sure my cams were positioned correctly, I heard a saw-whet owl calling. I was thrilled, even though this species only survives by preying on the tiny mammals I’ve been celebrating. Irony is just another way of ending a perfect September day.  

Sleeping Saw-whet Owl

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Backyard Surveillance

Northern Flicker at my bird bath

This year, I got three trail cams (my first two were Campark T80s and my third a Campark T86) that I set up by my two bird baths and in an area next to our raspberry bed where lots of White-throated Sparrows have been gathering and feeding. The cams don't have a zoom feature, so I have to set them up fairly close to where the birds will be, but they have a pretty darned good ability to focus from near to far. I move one of the bird bath cams to my 1’ x 3’ platform feeder at night. My original intent for that was in the hopes of seeing a flying squirrel, a critter we haven’t seen in our yard since the late 80s or early 90s. Instead, a little deer mouse or jumping mouse comes into that feeder every night. Because I'm not certain of the species, I'm calling it my "dear mouse."   

Deer mouse

He or she disappeared for two nights after one of my other cams caught a neighborhood cat roaming the yard. Cats simply do not belong loose outside. In Duluth, it’s not only a horrible practice with regard to wildlife, the health of the cat itself, and the danger that cats allowed outdoors can transmit toxoplasmosis to children and the elderly via sandboxes and garden beds that cats use as little boxes—it’s also illegal. Fortunately, after a couple night’s scare, my little mouse was back in my feeder. If I do manage to catch that cat, I will be bringing it to the pound.  

Dratted cat prowling in my yard

By day, I’ve gotten fun videos and photos of a good assortment of birds, from flickers to thrushes and warblers. By night, it’s alerted me to mammals besides that prowling cat, including a few deer mice, a skunk...

Skunk taking a drink

and wonder of wonders, a flying squirrel, not at my feeder but at a ground-level birdbath.  

Northern Flying Squirrel at my bird bath! 

This year’s Blue Jay migration has been extraordinary. As of September 22, 48,056 Blue Jays had been tallied—a full 30 percent of all the birds counted at the Hawk Ridge main overlook this year! I get Grandma duty every morning. The Blue Jays are big and flashy enough, when there are so many, that 5-week-old Walter has already been noticing them, but on September 20, the little guy fell asleep in his bassinet for a while when my platform feeder was crowded with Blue Jays, so I grabbed a few photos out the window. And my photos show 19 in my platform feeder at one time, or 6.3 Blue Jays per square foot!  

At least 19 Blue Jays plus one on the squirrel baffle

We’ve had an ongoing rat problem in the neighborhood for the past few years, but the rats seemed to have disappeared this summer, and my cams hadn’t shown evidence of a single one, at least not until the night of September 20-21. 

Rat at my bird bath

So now, at the peak of sparrow migration, before a single Harris’s or adult White-crowned Sparrow has shown up in my yard, I’m going to have to completely end my ground-feeding, empty at least one bird bath every night, and be extremely careful about spillage from my other feeders for the year. 

I don’t know if I’m more upset about the rat or the cat. I sorely wish that the cat would dispatch the rat whose body would somehow poison the cat, but that’s not how nature works. Domestic cats are singularly poor at preying on rats despite the ridiculous claims those feral cat groups make with regard to trap-neuter-release programs. Outdoor cats mostly kill birds and tinier rodents, and in the Duluth area, that means chipmunks and the native mice that provide a prey base for our owls and hawks, and a great deal of entertainment for me, trying to figure out how my one little mouse makes it past my squirrel baffle to get into that feeder.  

So my backyard surveillance program has uncovered two real problems. But I feel much much better just looking at the video of my flying squirrel. He or she was only there a single night, so I know my bird bath isn’t essential to the little guy’s existence, but I’m sure glad it came down to earth to give me a happy thrill for one night. 

Northern Flying Squirrel at my bird bath!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Smith's Longspur!

 Smith's Longspur

One of my favorite birds that I’ve hardly ever seen in my life is Smith’s Longspur. You can count on the fingers of one hand, without using the thumb or index finger, the number of times I’ve seen this tundra-nesting species. (You'd need a lot more fingers to count the number I tried for but missed!) I got my lifer with my friend Paula in Arkansas in January 2006, at the Stuttgart Municipal Airport, which is the birding hotspot for birders to add this species quickly and easily every winter. As many as 150 have been seen in the tiny airport—most birders see fewer than 10 simply because they go there, see it, and move on. When Paula and I went five years after 9-11, airport security regulations throughout the country were at their strictest. We entered the office, they saw our binoculars, sent us to a sign-in sheet, and told us to get off the runway if we heard a plane coming. I was thrilled to finally add this lifer—they’d been seen in Duluth a few times in the previous 25 years, and in western Minnesota most years, but I’d never been able to break away to see them except for the times I just missed one. My 2006 photos were exceptionally crappy, but oh, well—they were the best I had, and they showed my lifer.  

Smith’s Longspurs are regular in a few grassland areas in western Minnesota in mid-October, and may appear, rarely, in Duluth and along the North Shore in spring and fall, but they usually take a lot of effort to see. When I wrote my Field Guide to the Birds of Minnesota for the American Birding Association, I was limited to 300 species, but made sure to include it not just because it is regular but fairly predictable and "gettable." The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union often has mid-October field trips to see it. Back on October 6, 2017, I saw one briefly, but didn’t get photos at the Old Stella Jones Pier in Duluth. 

Then this year, on September 17, I heard there were a couple at the McQuade Road safe harbor, just a few miles up the shore, so Russ and I went there in late afternoon. And voila! I finally got some reasonable pictures of this elusive but fascinating bird.  

Smith's Longspur

Smith's Longspur

In autumn, Smith's Longspur is fairly nondescript, but it is, indeed, fascinating because this species has one of the most unusual social breeding systems known among birds. Most songbirds form socially monogamous relationships for breeding, even as the majority of species have what we call extra-pair paternity—that is, even in birds that form fairly tight pair ponds, such as chickadees and bluebirds, a lot of hanky panky goes on. But Smith’s Longspur is polygynandrous. Rather than forming pairs at all, each female associates and copulates with two or three males to produce a single clutch of eggs. And each male associates and copulates with two or more females.  

Males do not defend territories, but instead guard two or three females by following them closely and competing with each female’s other mates for fertilizations. Over a period of one week in the early spring, a female longspur will copulate over 350 times on average; this is one of the highest copulation rates of any bird. The males are each trying to ensure that their sperm will displace the sperm of each of their mates’ other mates. To accomplish this, the testes of Smith’s Longspurs are about double the mass of those of the closely-related but monogamous Lapland Longspur. Once chicks hatch, two or more males may assist each female in caring for her nestlings; the amount of care provided by each male depends on the number of young he has sired within that nest. No one understands how this system, so different from other longspurs, arose in the first place. Perhaps the advantages females obtain from extra male help in raising offspring may explain why they pair and mate with more than one male, but since each male divides his time among two or more females, too, a true explanation isn’t quite that simple.

Two exceptionally calm, cooperative Smith’s Longspurs were at the McQuade landing Thursday and Friday, hanging out with several Lapland Longspurs. A Merlin looking for lunch flew over and one of them ran to a rock on which a birder was sitting. It crouched down between the rock and the man's boot. I didn't react in time to get a photo of that. 

Smith's Longspurs are sparrow-sized and colored, blending in with the grass and weeds, but I got a lot of photos. I’d of course love to get pictures of them in their striking breeding plumage, but their soft winter appearance is quite lovely in its own way. 

Smith's Longspur

Smith's Longspur

When Russ and I got there, even as we could see the three birders who arrived before we did taking photos, we got distracted by an unusually cooperative American Golden-Plover and Pectoral Sandpiper. 

American Golden-Plover

Pectoral Sandpiper

I didn’t spend too much time with them before I headed for the longspurs. We spent over a half hour standing in one spot looking at and photographing longspurs before we started back, getting distracted all over again by the plover and sandpiper. So I have plenty of pictures of them, too. Like the other birders, the plover and sandpiper stayed socially distanced from us, so all was well on a jolly afternoon.  

Buddies: American Golden-Plover and Pectoral Sandpiper

A Brief Digression into Nomenclature 

In recent weeks, ornithology has been rocked by the American Ornithological Society changing the name of the longspur previously called McCown’s to the Thick-billed Longspur. McCown may have shot the first described specimen(s) of that longspur in Texas, but he had no clue what they were—he was simply shooting at Horned Larks when he found one or two oddballs among the carcasses and sent them to his friend George Lawrence, who named them for him. At the time, McCown was serving in the U.S. Army in Texas. He wasn’t much of a naturalist, but all the birds he shot for science and the one article he wrote about roadrunners were a direct result of serving in the U.S. Army after he was educated at West Point. He turned against that army to join the Confederates during the Civil War, making him a traitor to his country in a war fought to support slavery. Honoring him for shooting some birds he didn’t even know needed to be corrected. 

An excellent case could be made that the name of Smith’s Longspur should be changed, too, but not for the same reasons. Smith’s Longspur was first described by William Swainson as the “Painted Buntling” in 1831 from a specimen in breeding plumage collected by John Richardson in Saskatchewan. More than a decade later, in 1843, John James Audubon received specimens of the same species in winter plumage from Illinois from Edward Harris and John G. Bell. He named what he incorrectly thought was a new species in honor of his friend Gideon B. Smith of Baltimore in 1844. When ornithologists realized the two were the same species, they decided to solve the discrepancy, by keeping Swainson’s scientific name (Emberiza picta) while retaining Audubon’s vernacular name honoring Smith. This really does violate those "written-in-stone" rules about primacy that some ornithologists cited to argue against changing the name of what is now the Thick-billed Longspur. 

Smith's Longspur as Audubon painted it, based on Richardson/Swainson's specimen; Audubon, who didn't respect the names other ornithologists gave birds, called this the "Buff-breasted Finch" on his painting from Birds of America. I don't know if he included a painting of what he called Smith's Lark-Bunting. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Backyard Fun

Northern Saw-whet Owl with mouse

This fall migration has been very fun for me, even being stuck at home not being able to chase the Buff-breasted Sandpipers and Sabine’s Gulls I’m reading about others finding near Duluth. Last night, September 16, about 11 pm, after the Cubs had won in extra innings, I took my dog Pip outside before bed. It was a lovely night—stars filling the sky and little wind. I could hear a few migrants flying overhead, but my attention was arrested by someone calling much closer to the ground, a saw-whet owl. I’ve been putting one of my trail cams into my platform feeder at nighttime. I was hoping I might catch a little flying squirrel action, though Russ and I haven’t noticed any in our yard since the early 90s, but instead every night a deer mouse materializes in that feeder. It’s up on a tall pole with a squirrel baffle, and I haven’t quite figured how it’s getting into the feeder, but I’ve grown attached to the little guy. First thing this morning, I checked my cam pictures to make sure the owl hadn’t flown off with him. I don’t begrudge saw-whet owls calories, just so they don’t come from my personal friends.  

Deer mouse

Hawks have been migrating through. I’ve seen quite a few Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Bald Eagles, Merlins, and one Peregrine Falcon, and had one Broad-wing drop down into my own backyard for a bit. My Blue Jays squawk to beat the band when they notice a Merlin or Sharpie flying through. So far so good as far as my Blue Jays surviving the onslaught.   

Broad-winged Hawk near

On the best days here under Hawk Ridge, most of the raptors have seemed to be flying pretty high, and I haven’t sat outside watching them. But oddly enough, I added one as a new yard bird on Sunday the 13th—a Mississippi Kite—strictly by luck. I was watering plants on my front porch when I looked at the sky to the south, toward the lake, and saw a falcon-shaped bird with a fluttery flight moving along. My good friend Susan lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and when I visit her, I see lots of Mississippi Kites, so I’ve become very familiar with them in flight, but they’re quite rare in this St. Louis County, and I was holding a watering can, not binoculars or my camera. I checked the Hawk Ridge site—they saw one on September 9, but no one reported this one on the 13th. So it was going to be one of those “ones that got away” until Julian Sellers posted on the MOU listserv that he had seen one just a few minutes after I had, flying in that same general area. Confirmation!  

Gray-cheeked Thrush

My dogwood has ripe berries again and my mountain ash is nice and full. I’ve been seeing lots of Swainson’s Thrushes and a few Gray-cheeks in with the robins pigging out here. Red-eyed Vireos keep showing up, too, sometimes eating berries but mostly munching on the insects that are also attracted to fruits. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is almost always somewhere in my mountain ash or crabapple tree. My male Pileated Woodpecker, who disappeared during the nesting season, is back and has given me some splendid photo ops, but not in the fruit trees.  

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

2020 has become my personal Year of the Blue Jay. I’ve had so many great opportunities for photos, and on September 14, I had another first—a leucistic Blue Jay among the dozens visiting my feeders. I personally prefer to call any bird with normal plumage except for some pure white patches a “partial albino”—leucism can refer to any abnormality involving less melanin than normal, from patches of white to overall pale, or “dilute” plumage, so it doesn’t seem very precise. The bird in my yard had perfect Blue Jay plumage except its nape, which was pure white extending right up to the vertical black facial markings, and its blue crown, flecked with white. During the one day it was here, that jay flew off any time I tried to photograph it outside, but I got some decent photos from my dining room.   

Leucistic Blue Jay

Leucistic Blue Jay

A few times, I’ve had a hummingbird in mid or late September, but never before this year have I had hummingbirds just about every day through at least September 16. I haven’t seen it yet today.   

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

I got pretty solid confirmation that autumn is really here when a Fox Sparrow joined my abundant White-throats. Also, a flock of between 75 and 100 Pine Siskins dropped in about noon strictly for my birdbaths. I saw them out the window but didn’t get outside in time to get photos. Fortunately, my trail cam was on the scene.   

Pine Siskins at my bird bath

Every day brings something new, so it’s worth looking out the windows and, better yet, getting out there to enjoy. If we’re going to be stuck in a pandemic for a while, we might as well have fun with the birds.  

Pine Siskins at my bird bath