Every fall, research results and predictions on the presence and movement of winter finches and other winter species in North America is published in both Canada and the United States. It appears that ornithologists think this will be an excellent winter for seeing crossbills, nuthatches, purple finch, pine siskins and evening grosbeaks at our feeders. According to some ornithologists, large flocks of these birds have been on the move looking for sources of food already. We did see very large numbers of red-breasted nuthatches at Cape D earlier this year, and pine siskins have also been noticeable on the Peninsula this year as are purple finch.
By now, you should be beginning to notice an upswing in the activity at your bird feeders, so it is time to make sure all of our feeders are back in action. That means suet feeders, perhaps a tray feeder as well as the squirrel proof feeders and a well washed hummingbird feeder containing tasty nectar for the Anna’s hummingbird. The Anna’s remains with us throughout the year. It is a permanent resident and nests on the Peninsula.
Two very interesting birds to watch for during the winter are the red and white-winged crossbills. They are aptly named as they have bills especially adapted to extract seed from the cones of our conifers. Both species especially enjoy feeding on the cones of spruce trees. The most common of the two is the red crossbill. They will also frequent feeders and bird baths in winter. I have taken many photos of them in the yard on the peninsula in winter, especially when they bathed and drank the cool water from the bird bath. The north end of the Peninsula is a good place to see them. The white-winged crossbill has been seen on Peninsula Christmas counts, but it is generally considered rare. Look for them in flocks of red crossbills. Their white wing bars are distinctive. Crossbills tend to feed high in the conifers so be sure to check out the tree-tops when you are out winter birding.
Last winter was a good year at our peninsula feeders for spotted towhees, song sparrows and golden-crowned sparrows. Dark-eyed juncos and chestnut-back chickadees were seen in large numbers as well.
Food source is usually what drives the movement from north to south or even from east to west. When the cone crop is poor in the east the birds will move west in winter, or from the north to the south in search of a better food supply. On the other hand, if the cone crop is abundant in their area most birds will stay with the food. We on the Peninsula might benefit this year from the predicted movement of some bird species. Our feeders may be inundated! I, for one, will stock up on black oil seed, suet, nyger seed and white millet. In addition, I will make sure the Anna’s hummingbird has a fresh supply of nectar every few days and I will increase the number of bird birders in anticipation of the prediction that we will have a goodly number of birds at our feeders this winter!
”Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.