With late fall drifting into early winter I thought I would cover some of the rarer birds seen this year. It is a sad time when the last snow buntings leave for the winter and the feeder sits empty. It always takes a few days to get over the expectation of seeing them squabbling and chasing each other around the willows and feeder. About all we are going to see the rest of the winter is ravens, ptarmigan, and perhaps a wintering snow owl.
Our fall storms during migration time occasionally drops a rare bird in our lap. Most of the time it is a bird that breeds not too far away and has just strayed a bit. Then we get really lucky and a bird from distant shores arrives. Last year for the second season in a row we had a finch show up at the feeder with the Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis). In 2007 it was a female Cassin’s Finch (Carpodacus cassinii) and then 2008 we had a lovely male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus ) at the feeder for several days from late September to early October. September also brought a juvenile Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus ), both were new birds for the Colville.
Purple Finch Common Cuckoo - Juvenile
This year we managed two fall migrants, one a Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla), a neat bird to see as we get very few warblers this far north.
Wilson’s have been recorded several times here both in the spring and fall.
The second bird was seen feeding around the house in mid-October, looking cold and hungry. It was busy feeding on grass seed heads sticking out of the snow, and even though the light was poor, I was able to get a good picture of it. At first I thought it was a juvenile Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii), the only other Lincolns I had seen was a adult in the spring several years ago. After review from other birders that had more experience with the subject, it turned out to be a juvenile Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina).
Chipping Sparrow - Juvenile
For some reason we also had a few Hoary Redpolls (Carduelis hornemanni) show up in October after our local breeders had been gone for several weeks. In mid month, two showed up and the one juvenile was still being fed by the other bird. It was doing its wing flutter and begging till it was fed.
With the days becoming shorter quickly, it won’t be long until the sun is gone and it will be the season for watching the heavens, counting stars and watching the Aurora dance over head.