Varied thrush!

Varied thrushes are common in the Pacific Northwest, but I think seeing one in Rice Lake Township is quite a find. Darin Golden thinks the bird he saw in his backyard is a varied thrush, and based on the pictures in the bird books, I have to agree. Check it out for yourself:

It’s not real easy to see with the photographic limits of this blog, I realize. But the colors and the way they are distributed sure seem to be that of a varied thrush.
Meanwhile, Theodore H. Harwood, who lives in east Duluth, was treated to a three-way battle among woodpeckers in his maple trees a couple of days ago. Here’s the image he caught of a couple of them:

Finally, Gerry Sibell of Hibbing agrees with so many of you: More fox sparrows passing through this spring than he has ever seen before, and a big group of juncos as well. He’s also seeing a lot of tree sparrows, which is one that I haven’t heard mentioned much until now. “These guys have done a great job of aerating the soil looking for little tidbits,” Gerry writes. “These birds usually don’t stay this long but I think the recent 8 inches of snow we got up here delayed them.”
Thanks for the reports, everyone.
And now I must report that I’ll be out of contact with the blog for a little more than a week. However, if you have observations to share, I think you can do that by hitting the comment tab. Theoretically, I’m supposed to approve all the comments, but that seems to happen whether I’m around to do that or not.

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Foxes and juncos

Have you ever seen so many juncos? They just seem to be everywhere, in great numbers. I love watching juncos in flight; they are such simple birds — black and white — but the white on their wings is so flashy.
Besides juncos, the other migrants I’m seeing on my deck are a couple of chipping sparrows. I get them every year now, along with the juncos, and I can’t put out enough millet to satisfy them.
But the migrant everyone else is seeing is fox sparrows. People who have never seen fox sparrows, or who have seen one or two rarely, suddenly are seeing fox sparrows everywhere.
Here’s a picture Kurt Kuehn sent of a fox sparrow:

You can see why it got its name.
Juncos and fox sparrows are getting attention for their numbers, but of course many other birds are passing through, and others are settling in for the summer.
Patt Jackson of Duluth said she saw a picture of pelicans flying over Duluth in the Duluth News Tribune, and at first thought it was a joke. But a few days later she saw a beautiful flock of white pelicans for herself, flying overhead.
I think white pelicans are actually fairly common here at the right times of the year, although I can only say that I’ve seen them once.
Several of you have added your comments about the birds you’ve been seeing as spring (ever so slowly) advances. Thank you!
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Spring, anyway

April is up to her old tricks.
I put my patio furniture out on Monday. On Tuesday, it got up to 65 degrees.
Today, children were celebrating the start of spring break by building snowmen.
But to the birds, it’s spring, anyway. Hawk Ridge counters were seeing raptors come through, even in the blustery weather of the past couple of days.
Jana in Proctor reports seeing lots of little birds — mostly juncos, but also her first-ever fox sparrow. She also has had a male cardinal at the feeder.
I’ve enjoyed the return of juncos as well. They looked pretty in the snow this morning, although I think they were pretty annoyed about it.
House finches have reappeared. And I’m almost sure I’ve heard a flicker or two.
On Monday, I saw a pair of turkey vultures circling high overhead.
And the other day during my lunchtime walk, I thought I heard a song sparrow singing. But after listening to what it’s supposed to sound like on the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology website (check it out here), I decided I had it confused with something else. Got to work on those bird songs.
What about you? What’s coming through your backyard or favorite birdwatching spot?

You can write to me at: Pictures are welcome, too.

Cardinals at war

Being a cardinal isn’t just a matter of looking pretty and munching on safflower.
There are territorial matters to be worked out.
Bernard St. George posted these images from Florida of two male cardinals in serious negotiations:

And this is a cardinal with a battered beak. It has been around the Florida homestead for three years, Bernie says:

I asked Bernie where he was. Still in Florida, he said. Still too cold in Wisconsin to come back.
He might not have felt that way if he’d been in Wisconsin yesterday, but I understand our taste of summer is over, or just about over.

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More Bohemians

The note Tony Mitchell sent on Friday started with the phrase: “I don’t mean to brag (yes I do) …”
He had every reason to brag. Tony, who lives below Hawk Ridge said he had more than 500 Bohemian waxwings hanging about his property on Thursday. Last Sunday, a flock of 35 common redpolls stopped by. Pine siskins, house finches, dark-eyed juncos and robins have been frequenting the premises as well.
Ah, spring.
You might have seen a couple of the pictures that Tony sent in Sam Cook’s Outdoors blog yesterday. Here are a couple more, starting with the one that took my breath away, looking straight up at the Bohemian waxwings flying overhead:

And here’s a closer view of a mere 18 of them:

Thanks again, Tony.

Speaking of spring: Two of my favorite indications that spring is really here came on the same day — Thursday — when Tony was seeing all of those waxwings. That was also the day that I noticed that the West Duluth Dairy Queen was open for the season. And it was the day that I heard and saw my first robin of the season. It flew from a tree next to the alley to the crabapple tree in my front yard, and then it put on QUITE a concert.

Meanwhile: I’ve been having quite a battle with a gang of starlings and a single persistent squirrel over my birdfeeders. I don’t mind if starlings and squirrels get some of the food, but I don’t like it when they take over. They did that in the case of a suet log I had hanging above my deck. The squirrel would use a nearby tray feeder as a launching pad to get at the suet log, suet being something this particular squirrel has a fondness for. (The starlings do, as well.) I replaced the tray feeder with a suet cage, but that didn’t deter the squirrel in the least. So I got rid of the suet log altogether, replacing it with the suet cage. Then this morning I got to watch the squirrel peering up at the suet from every angle, its thoughts obvious: How can I get at that lovely treat? And: Will it be worth it?
No way, I thought. Then, an enormous leap, and Mr. Squirrel was on the cage. But he didn’t know quite what to do with himself once he got there, and he was even less sure how to get away.
The squirrel managed it, of course.
Who needs to go to a circus to watch acrobats when you’ve got squirrel in your yard?

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Rule Bohemians

Finally, I saw my first Bohemian waxwings.
It was on Sunday, when I stopped at the overlook below the Thompson Hill rest stop, where Dave Carmen was the official volunteer hawk counter for the day for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. I wouldn’t have seen anything except a few gulls had not Dave graciously taken the time to point out several migrating bald eagles, a couple of red-tailed hawks and a raven, all in flight.
A small flock of Bohemians raced past shortly after I arrived. I might have seen them, but I wouldn’t have known what they were. Dave identified them instantly.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that Bohemians long have eluded me. They are embarrassingly common around here in the winter, except when I’m looking for them.
I still hope to see Bohemians perched in trees, although I might never get as good a look as in this gorgeous picture taken by Tony Mitchell:

I posted some of Tony’s Bohemian waxwing images a while back, but I couldn’t resist this excuse to include one that I didn’t use previously.
By the way, on that Sunday Dave Carmen recorded 101 bald eagles, 11 red-tailed hawks, one rough-legged hawk and three golden eagles. You can follow the counts at the Hawk Ridge website here.

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