Birdwatching 
Lucky number 17 made for a great day at the birdfeeder

Dark-eyed juncos are among our winter feeder birds.

Today, my lucky number is 17! Yesterday it was four! Morning dawned with bright sunlight and warmth not experienced for a few days here at the north end of the Peninsula. The yard was a flurry of activity. The birdbath was being emptied more quickly than usual by the fall regulars like the song sparrow, the chestnut-backed chickadee family and the fox sparrow. Do you suppose the other 14 species were coming around to see what the fuss in the birdbath was all about? Probably not! Insects were out in larger numbers than I have noticed for quite a few days. I even sustained a mosquito bite! A main staple for many birds is insects. Many species are in decline due to pesticides and other strategies used by humans to kill off pesky insects. It is often thought that habitat loss is the reason for the decline of our avian species, but scientists are finding that the loss of insects is also very high on the list of contributing factors and is more important than we think. One of these species is the American kestrel, according to Dr. David Bird. Scientists have shown that its decline is related to the loss of insects on which the kestrel depends for food.

The golden-crowned kinglet found its way to the birdbath. It appeared to challenge the song sparrow to a duel so it could have a turn. The kinglet won the stand-off and had its bath. Dark-eyed juncos also made an appearance in relatively large numbers. They are one of our winter feeder visitors. They tend to be ground feeders so a large flock was here on the grass scratching away for favorite seeds. Throwing a few handfuls of white millet on the ground will keep dark-eyed juncos happy. They prefer to forage on open ground where there are shrubs or bushes close by for protection in the event that danger lurks.

One of the busiest happenings of the day was a visitation by a flock of about 20 bushtits. As usual, the chickadees with whom they sometimes hang out gave their presence away. The bushtit is an uncommon, permanent resident on the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and the Peninsula. So it is always here, but is not always seen!

The bushtit is extremely small at just over 4 inches. It is rather nondescript in its all gray-brown color. Its tail is long and its bill is short and stubby. They are seldom seen alone. They are always in large flocks that buzz around and through the trees with great speed looking for tiny insects such as aphids. Yesterday’s sunshine brought out the insects so the bushtits responded big time. The Sibley bird guide reminds us that bushtits are not feeder birds.

Not only was the yard alive with birds and many species of them, it was also alive with sound. Flight calls and winter chirps and chips were music to my ears. I relish every day of sunshine, and I relish all the other days, no matter the weather. The days of “now” are beautiful and they bring new visitors and/or those that are not as easily seen at other times of the year. Enjoy what is left of autumn. Look forward to winter, and look for large flocks of the wee bushtits flitting from tree to tree on the hunt for tiny insects.

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