The air was filled with twittering calls one morning a couple of days ago. It was windy and high up in the turbulent air I saw what looked small leaves floating this way and that, until they gathered into an undulating flock and settled on a tree in the wetland next to our house: a flock of Pine Siskins.
Pine Siskins are a nomadic species with a preference for conifer seeds. According to a report on winter finches, the spruce and hemlock crops are supposed to be excellent this year in the Northeast and since spruce seed crop up north in Yukon and Alaska has been average Pine Siskins are expected to show up in good numbers in the Northeast There have a number of recent sightings on the New England bird lists but nothing yet like the irruption in Jan 2009.
I got a couple of photos and, hoping they would come closer, stocked my Nyeer feeder but so far have only seen Goldfinches. This morning, New Year's Day, during a walk up Black Mountain I checked the crowns of red and white pines for cones and found almost none. So, I don't expect to see more Pine Siskins this winter.
I went back into my archive to pull out some photos I had taken during the irruption in early 2009. Back then they overwhelmed my feeders and I was kind of glad when after a few weeks they disappeared. They are a gregarious but pugnacious lot vigorously defending their spot at the feeder. Because of their small beaks they have trouble opening black oil sunflower seeds but will pick up broken pieces left behind by other birds.
The lower bird is probably a "green morph"
To enliven the dull dark days I decided to try my hand at sketching birds from photographs that I took. These are my first efforts. It's fun and teaches me to see the bird's body underneath the feathers. I like to draw fast; an ultra fine gel roller seems to be the perfect tool - no second chances; it has to be right the first time. I added some color with pastels. As you can see I will need a lot of practice.
Turkey, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser
I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive New Year, and thanks for visiting!