Watch Out, Finches

I have been trying to do this entry all day and so many cool and blogable things keep happening. I will do this and begin working on my very exciting discovery in the woods entry.

Okay, now we are getting some proper fall temps--blustery wind with fifty degree temps--now that is what I call buckthorn removal weather! On my way out to Mr. Neil's this afternoon, I noticed several raptors bouncing and soaring in the wind. Mostly red-tails and eagles, but peregrine went bombing over the highway in hot pursuit of something over the fields.

I have noticed a significant increase in purple finches at the feeder in the last few days. A family group had shown up a few weeks ago, but on Sunday when I was photographing the cedar waxwings, I could hear dozens and dozens in the surrounding woods. In the fall, they have such a quiet little chatter as they flit from tree to tree and squabble over perches at the feeder in can be easy to miss among the din of blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice.

I love this photo--it looks like the goldfinch is trying to eavesdrop on the male purple finches. "Hmmm, what are they plotting?"

Ron Pittaway, of the Ontario Field Ornithologists has an annual Winter Finch Forecast with Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and the observations of regional birders, Pittaway tries to make predictions about finch movement in southern Canada and the northern United States. Birds are always a tricky thing to predict, but this year I did notice an increase in purple finches, so I thought I would see what he had to say:

"Most Purple Finches will migrate out of Ontario this fall in response to the low seed crops. Currently, Purple Finches are migrating south through southern Ontario. Very few or none will stay behind at feeders in southern Ontario."

You should check the rest of the report, he describes conditions in the northern boreal forests and how that relates to individual species like redpolls, grosbeaks, finches and siskins. He does predict that white-winged and red crossbills and pine siskins will not be irrupting south out of Ontario as they do some years. However, other winter finches such as pine grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks and redpolls are supposed to get out of Ontario and down south into the United State.

It's been interesting to watch the purple finches interact with the other species. Here a male purple finch got into it with a black-capped chickadee--they are not very tolerant of other species feeding with them. When I worked at the bird store, customers would tell me that house finches drove other birds away, but I have never seen them be as aggressive as these thugs.

They're even hanging out on the tray feeder like this female purple finch and flushing away juncos. They're pretty, but man, don't mess with them.

Don't worry, goldfinch, you're still pretty too. Even in winter plumage. What's interesting is that the purple finches are seemingly preferring the sunflower feeders over the Nyjer thistle feeders, so the goldfinches do have a quiet place to feed at the moment.