[Ontbirds] Winter finch extravaganza in Algoma

Kirk Zufelt zufelt_k at shaw.ca
Wed Jan 18 15:10:20 EST 2012

 Last Thursday night our unseasonably warm conditions ended with 2 days of frigid temperatures into the -20C range. As is usually the case here this prompted a mass exodus of gulls and with them went the Slaty-backed Gull. Quite disappointing for local birders.

However starting last weekend we have seen a very impressive invasion of winter finches. Pine Grosbeaks were everywhere on the weekend and out of the city you couldn't drive more than a few minutes without seeing small flocks all along the road sides. Some feeders outside of town had good size flocks of up to 30-40 individuals. Virtually ever time I stopped and got out of the car I could hear flocks of White-wing Crossbills and Redpolls. All the Tamarack swamps had WW Cossbills feeding. There were a few Red Crossbills reported across the river in Michigan but we haven't seen any over this way. Evening Grosbeaks in small numbers were seen at various feeding stations but they appear to be on the move as I wasn't able to catch up with a single one. Some feeder watchers across the river have been reporting large numbers of redpolls -several hundred -with the usual ratio of Hoary's 1:100 or so. I had a Hoary at a Sunniside Beach feeder and a 1st winter bird at my feeder. Purple Finches have been present at several feeders in small numbers.

Boreal Chickadees and Gray Jays have been very elusive despite an extensive effort on my part.

At my feeder on the city limits of the Sault the big story is Pine Siskins. The numbers have been growing rapidly over the last week and today was wild. Although an accurate count is impossible I got close to 300 several times before a mass panic attach sent all the birds flying. They are consuming about 5 lbs of Nyjer seed daily plus a load of Black oilers. There were at least 3 "green morph'' Siskins present in this large group. In with these birds were a smattering of Redpolls and Goldfinches. WW Crossbills and Pine Grosbeaks are around but not spending time at the feeder.

Interestingly some people are reporting mostly Pine Grosbeaks, or mostly Redpolls or in my case mostly Siskins at their feeding stations. In my experience this is quite unusual usually one species seems to predominate locally but not this year. Things seem to be evolving rapidly but over the last 5 days finch numbers have been as high as I have encountered in the last decade.

Kirk Zufelt
Sault Ste. Marie

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