I’ve been enjoying quite a bit of bird activity over this past winter.

The feeder – Usually the birds abandon our front feeder for most of the winter. But this winter the feeder is about four feet away from where it used to be, having been moved from hanging right over our front porch wall and onto a branch in the crabapple tree. This move happened when we bought a larger feeder with a weight sensitive perching area (to assist the squirrels in not cleaning it out!). I don’t know if it’s the new location or just a fluke, but we’ve had birds out there daily. Sometimes the squirrels sit on a nearby branch, stretching to see if they can reach the feeder, and they’ll get buzzed by a few sparrows and house finches making their way to the perch ring. (It seems to really irritate the squirrels.)

The ducks – Another change this year is that ducks are consistently in the creek near the trail where I run. There are a few nearby duck ponds that are always teeming with ducks, but they rarely turn up in the shallow creek. But I’ve enjoyed counting ducks – mallards and wigeons – every time I’ve gone out running this winter. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like going out to run in the cold, I’ll remember “Hey! I need to count the ducks!” This morning, for the first time in a long time, there were no ducks. Perhaps that was because of…..

the HERON! heron.jpgYes, another unusual bird phenomenon this winter has been a great blue heron in the creek. (Not the one in the picture though; this picture is of one I saw in Vancouver eyeing some ducklings in May 2007.) I saw one in early January standing on the edge of the creek with its wings hanging open and down (ohhhhh…I never carry my camera when I go running! Too bad!). I think it was sunning itself. I was stunned to see it because they usually don’t overwinter here. I wrote my friend, a fellow birder, and said “I’ve never seen one here this early!” And she wrote back, saying “I’ve never seen one here this late!” So I guess we’re unsure as to whether it stuck around and hadn’t migrated, or if it was an early return migrator. I’d sort of forgotten about it until I saw a great blue heron at the creek again this morning. This time it was in full-on hunting mode. (I have a hard time imagining it making much of a catch in our murky shallow creek.)

Not quite as interesting, but still neat was that this morning I also heard my first flicker drumming on someone’s chimney. :-)

First house finch song – In another post, I mentioned that I keep track of when I see the first crocus of the year. Well, I also do that with other fun things – like recording when I hear the first full house finch mating song of the year. Here are my results from the past few years:

2009: Jan 12

2008: Jan 8

2007: Jan 15

2006: Jan 15

2005: Jan 23

Of course now I hear them every time I step out the door. The finch mating season is well underway!

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