Posted by: atowhee | January 23, 2017


Early risers, slow to wake, slugabeds—our garden birds have morning routines like many primates we know. In our garden we provide a perpetual smorgasbord. In winter there is a fairly predictable cavalcade of visitors.  The Juncos are often on the ground and the feeders before dawn has become a subtle glow in the east.  Some Juncos come and go all day until about an hour before sunset.  September to April they are the first to arise and arrive.

House Finches are often the second species to arrive.

Within two hours of sunrise the Spotted Towhee couple and a lone Song Sparrow are about.  Soon after the first starlings come by.  Off in the trees I may hear Robins or the local Scrub-Jays.  Recently there has been a single Varied Thrush, usually showing up before 11 AM.  The insectivores start coming by mid to late morning, the colder the overnight, the earlier they arrive:  War-war the Audubon Warbler, our two Black-capped Chickadees, maybe the Bewick’s Wren or Bushtit flock.  In winter I think of the Bushtit flock as a gypsy band, sometimes referring to them as our local “vagaband.”

The Downy is usually a daily repeat visitor; it’s a juvenile bird who comes mid-morning, then again before roosting time.  A female flicker has us on her afternoon route.

The Collared-Doves are unusual before noon.  Passing Crows or Canada or Cackling Geese most often are heard mid-day.  The Red-breasted Nuthatch and Anna’s Hummingbird have been unpredictable this winter, missing most days.  During heavy snow cover we had one or two American Goldfinch and Golden-crowned Sparrows, but not when the ground is clear.

The birds that are almost always present besides the numerous Juncos (two dozen often at one time) are the Song Sparrow, House Finches (up to 8 at once) and the House Sparrows.  Interestingly the latter roost in a dense bush about ten yards from most of pour feeders.  Yet they’re often slow to arrive, 10 AM or even later some days.

Much of the coming and going and the timing thereof is dependent on the calorie calculus of each species…what it eats, what it needs to make action pay off in a calorie surplus…seed eaters can come early because there is always food and it’s easy to eat.  Suet feeders require clinging or flutter and thus take more energy to access.

The gray squirrels are not early to the feeders, 9 AM or later most days.  They dominate the platform feeders when they come but do little to disturb the sparrows species and the House Finches who eat on the ground often.  These squirrels, unlike the ones we had in Ashland, do not often attack the suet feeders?!vath-avath-bjnc-3

There are openings for a couple birders on two trips Im leading in the Pacific Northwest this year.  Both trips are sponsored  by Golden Gate Audubon of San Francisco/Oakland…but you do not have to be a member to join the trips.

Northwest Washington is March 9-13.  We bird the perimeter of Puget Sound for Arctic birds.  On past trips we have had Gyrfalcon and Snowy Owl.  We still hope for Yellow-billed Loon.  Trumpeter Swan, Red-necked Grebe, many Harlequin, Rhino Auklets and other goodies can be expected.

Southern Cascades is May 26-29.  This trip is based in Ashland and will include Klamath Basin and Butte Valley.   Of course, we will try for Great Gray Owl on their breeding grounds.  Other targets: Green-tailed Towhee, White-headed Woodpecker, nesting Sandhill Cranes, dancing Western Grebes, Black Tern, Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawks, Calliope Hummingbird, Dipper, Oak Titmouse, California Towhee, White-tailed Kite and White-faced Ibis.

Here is websiute for more info:

If you are interested in either trip, let me know.



  1. the early bird gets the worm, the early worm gets eaten

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