As I sit on my front porch on this cold, rainy morning in East Tennessee, I'm listening to the song of a Carolina Chickadee in the edge of the woods near the bird feeders. The lilting Phee-bee-phee-bay of his song is a welcome sound that indicates spiring is not too far away.
I've noticed more bird songs in the yard over the past few weeks and it seems I'm not the only one who is impatient for spring. In the winter months we tend to hear birds calling, but songs are something special and are reserved for the breeding season. As winter begins to draw to a close we still hear the birds calling, but we start to hear more bird songs as the males start to practice their vocals to gear up for mating.
But winter isn't over yet. There are still several Purple Finches hanging around the feeders, and they should be here for another six to eight weeks before they move to their breeding grounds farther north. I don't know what it is about this property, but we have an unusually high population of Purple Finches. As crazy as it sounds, its not uncommon to be able to count 50+ individuals at any given time. When we first moved here, we submitted our first batch of data for the Great Backyard Bird Count and had someone follow up with us to make sure we hadn't erroneously counted House Finches. My wife sent some photos to prove we knew what we were talking about, and that satisfied them. We had to submit proof for the next couple of years but then they finally stopped asking.
I talked to a birding friend a few weeks ago and he was telling me how few Purple Finches had been reported in his area in the last few years. The fear is they may be on the decline, so I feel very fortunate to have as many as we have here. Below is a video my wife took a month or so ago that shows a flock of purples on one of their favorite feeders. There is an American Goldfinch or two in the mix occasionally, but there are mostly Purple Finches, male and female, in the frame. This is a typical morning sight on the feeders here in the winter.
Ahh well, such is the life of a creatures and critters biologist. You do what they need you to do even if the aesthetic isn't perfect. That explains why I have several brush piles in the edge of the woods and why I don't remove dead trees once they die, but that's a story for another day. It's getting cold out here on the porch, so I think I'll go in and warm up in front of the fire. Until next time.
Madbird Biologist - Mark A. Dunaway
I am a wildlife biologist and nature recording expert who is passionate about our planet and the species we share it with. I am an advocate for conservation and enjoy educating others about the plants and animals around us. Tag along with me as I document what I'm up do or talk about things I think others may be interested in. Thanks for joining me on this journey into the natural world.