Winter was unusually wet and dismal in Seattle this year. I grew up in Florida where the length of the days doesn't change significantly through the year, and maybe for that reason I'm generally not bothered by seasonal depression. But this year I felt the winter blues. This is the kind of weather people who don't live here think we have all the time. And it hasn't let up for spring -- our March was the wettest on record, and April continues to be sodden. But through all this gloom (and a fair bit of personal stress) one bright spot of pleasure and distraction has remained: my bird feeders.
Last year I relocated from Ballard, just north of downtown Seattle, where I lived in one of the more industrial neighborhoods in town, to West Seattle. We are now about as far South as you can go and still be in the city. The neighborhood has more of a suburban feel, lots of trees along the streets, and we are surrounded by parks and greenbelts. The difference in the bird life is amazing.
In Ballard, my neighborhood was dominated almost entirely by crows, who shared their turf uneasily with seagulls, pigeons, starlings, and sparrows.
(The sparrows lived mostly in the parking garage of the Safeway across the street and nested in the small trees along the sidewalk. What is it with sparrows and grocery stores? It is an almost ubiquitous combination in Seattle.) And our neighborhood was so thick with feral cats that I didn't dare set up bird feeders.
Here in West Seattle, the situation is very different. Bird activity is much higher, and the number of species are far greater. Even though I moved here at the end of summer and didn't get my feeders set up until early Autumn, I've had amazing success. I have positively identified 17 different species in my yard over the winter. (Not counting others -- including a Red-Tailed Hawk -- that have been in the neighborhood, but never actually on my property.) This is my "yard list" for the winter and early Spring:
Seen on our property (West Seattle) June 2010 through December 31, 2010
1. American Goldfinch (winter plumage)
2. American Robin
3. Anna's hummingbird
4. Bewick's Wren
5. Black Capped Chickadee
7. Dark-eyed Juncos
8. European Starlings
9. Northern Flicker
10. Red-breasted Nuthatch
11. Rock Pigeons
12. Steller's Jay
Jan 1st 2011 through April 14 2011
13. House Finch
14. Song Sparrow
15. Yellow-rumped warbler
17. House Sparrow
I'm pretty happy with that list.
Some of the birds have come to seem like constant companions -- friends even. The chickadees, for instance, have been here almost every day. Their curiosity and fearlessness makes them great birds for close observation.
Also, the Dark-eyed Juncos, who not only eat at my feeders and in the yard below, but frequently even on the railing of my deck. One Junco in particular, a fellow with prominent leucism (lack of pigment) on his face, was a frequent guest throughout the winter.
Anna's Hummingbirds have been another real blessing this winter. They've hung out in my yard through snow, rain, heavy winds and (occasionally) sun. There is at least one male/female pair in the neighborhood, so I am hoping to see hummingbird fledglings before too long. (Here you see a noticeably sluggish Anna's Hummingbird at my feeder during our first big snow in November. I had to go out every hour or so and bring the feeder in to thaw it out.)
This really just scratches the surface of the pleasure my bird watching has given me over the past eight months or so. As I go forward with this blog, I plan to give many of my avian friends a more in depth look, and also to keep you up to date on the excitement of Spring in West Seattle.
Let me leave you, though, with a shot of one of my non-bird "friends" -- the clever and resourceful nemesis of birdfeeders everywhere. I have more to say about him in the future as well.