Tuesday, June 21, 2011

House Finches, the First Day of Summer, and Baseball

Finally got a decent photo of the male House Finch, seen here with his mate.
Today is the first day of Summer and I awoke this morning to the song of House Finches.  This couple (I assume it's the same couple -- I frequently see them together and never see more than one of each gender at a time) have been around since late winter/early Spring although I've been seeing a lot more of them in the last couple of weeks.  The female has posed for some good pictures but the male continues to be very elusive.  This morning I saw them eating on the rail of my deck -- food that I put out for our resident (and slightly mentally handicapped, I believe) pigeon Timmy.  Juncos, Sparrows, Starlings and the occasional crow also stop by to sample Timmy's food, but this is the first time I've seen the Finches there. 

The guides say that House Finches are only seen individually during nesting season, and that other times they tend to form large flocks.  I haven't seen any flocks, just this couple, who have been around most of the Spring.  But I also haven't seen any fledglings, and I was thinking that it must be late in the season for nesting.  But my naturalist friend, Kevin, assures me that it's still very much nesting season for House Finches.  "Sometimes they get a late start and may not have fledglings until the middle of July," he says, "or they get an early start and raise two broods of young in one season.  Keep your eyes peeled because you still may see some fledglings before the summer is over!"

I will definitely be watching.

Her Majesty, Lulubelle, enjoys the sun and watches for rats on the first day of summer.
I started this blog a little over two months ago (it seems much longer) at the beginning of a spring that has been unusually wet and cool here.  We are still well below our average temperatures in Seattle (today it's going to get up to a lovely 75, but it's not going to last --  tomorrow the drizzle comes back).  These conditions are creating all kinds of problems.  Today on the news I heard that the state's strawberry crop is delayed and may be the latest crop in many years.  Here at home my own garden has grown much slower than anticipated and my plans to outfit my yard for hummingbirds this year might have to wait.  

Also, there have been an unusual number of bear sightings in the suburbs -- it's been going on for a couple of years but this year it seems even worse.  Part of the problem is that the edges of the Greater Puget sound urban sprawl are pushing further and further into the greenbelt areas that the bears depend on.  But part of the problem also is the unusually cool weather which has retarded the food sources at higher altitudes and the hungry spring bears are coming down into the inhabited areas to look for food. That often ends badly for the bear.

I hope to bring you more about the bears in the near future.

Back in my first post I featured rats, starlings and Flickers.  They're all still here.  I haven't seen the Flickers as much lately and they've stopped their incessant banging on the side of the house in the mornings.  But I hear them frequently, especially early in the day. 

The rats are still here, and multiplying.
 The rat is not only still here, but now there are several smaller rats around as well.  Obviously, reproduction has occurred.  The rats seem quite comfortable in the yard, although my dog Lulubelle, true to her terrier ancestry, keeps a close eye on them and lets them know if they get out of line.  (I don't know what the "rules" are for the rats, but Lulubelle does.  She's a very rule oriented girl.)

Starlings in their shimmering summer colors
 And the starlings, of course, are still here too.  They've gone from their brown, brightly spotted winter colors to their resplendent summer iridescent purple and green.  That's because earlier in the year their new feathers are growing in, the white tips of which give them the white spots.  Now the tips have worn away, and their spring and summer colors shimmer.  All About Birds says this unusual way of changing colors is called "wear molt".  

Ichiro is hitting again and the Mariners are in contention.  What a great way to start summer.
Today -- the first day of Summer -- we are just enjoying the sunshine, watching the birds, waiting for the baseball game to start. (The Seattle Mariners-- who took two games out of three this weekend from the Phillies, the best team in baseball right now --  are in DC today, playing the Washington Nationals, and are one game out of first. Who could have predicted that?) (They lost, giving away a four run lead in the ninth inning -- but it was still a good day.)

And, of course, all of us are hoping for more good weather.


Birdland West readers will be interested in my review of Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle by Thor Hanson, which is posted now at Books and Beasts.   It's a great book and a must read for all bird lovers.  Check out the review here.

 (Many of the original photographs featured on Birdland West are available for sale as art quality prints.  You can check out all of our offerings at http://AlexWashoe.imagekind.com.  If you see an image here that does not show up on our Imagekind site please contact me directly and I'll let you know about availability.)

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