Saturday, January 24, 2015 Swans, Tree Sparrow, Purple Finch

Sunrise 9:29 am, sunset 4:50 pm, for a total day length of 7 hours and 20 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 37 seconds longer.

Our first snowfall of the year on Thursday was pathetic, not even covering the tips of the still-green grass blades. Under cover of darkness, a scant inch of snow fell, giving the plows something to practice on. When it warmed just a few degrees all that potential turned to cold rain and ice. Bah!

Today, the blasting north wind returned and the temperature again dropped to the mid-20s. A deeper plunge into the teens with strong north wind 20-35 mph with gusts to 50 mph is forecast for tonight and Sunday. The wind sure makes it miserable for humans and birds alike.

Whether rain, snow, sleet, or clear, there are four VARIED THRUSHES that sing every morning in my neighborhood, sometimes in chorus. It is a bit odd, but inspiring nonetheless, and their striking orange and black coloration brightens any day. About 15 ROBINS were here this morning with a few VARIED THRUSHES, chased around by five STELLER’S JAYS who had nothing better to do.

I checked the Mile 1 Nash Road wetlands this afternoon and found the TRUMPETER SWAN family of four at the back near a bit of open water. The cygnets and one adult were napping on the ice, heads tucked into their warm feathers, braced against the fierce wind. The other adult was feeding, but kept a watchful eye over its family. It’s a tough time and bound to get worse when the wetlands freeze completely.

Ava’s Place is now an official eBird Hotspot, and with good reason. I enjoyed watching her increasing flock of scrappy little PINE SISKINS scrabble for sunflower seeds on the ground with the much larger PINE GROSBEAKS. Nervous, they repeatedly flew frantically up to the nearby cottonwoods and then quickly returned, another false alarm. With this many birds, there’s likely to be a predator around, but I didn’t see one.

One of those return flights delivered a handsome AMERICAN TREE SPARROW with his bicolored black and yellow bill, “tie-tack”, and warm chestnut browns. He hopped about, dodging the siskins, grabbing whatever bits he could find.

Another flurry included the PURPLE FINCH, so much larger than either the tree sparrow or siskins, and with such a chunky bill. He seemed quite comfortable feeding on the ground with the rest of the mixed flock, and often, perhaps dangerously, chose to stay rather than beat a quick exit with the others.

Recently, Kit and Janet D saw a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET dash in and out among the regulars. One never knows what will show up at Ava’s!

Even a little icy snow makes scavenging harder for the birds and the feeders are a welcome source of calories; keep yours full of sunflower seeds and suet. And if you enjoy Ava’s birds, please consider bringing some sunflower seeds to share with all those hungry birds.

Happy Brrrrding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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