[Tweeters] how "good" is a bird?--entirely a matter of perspective

Hal Michael ucd880 at comcast.net
Fri Jun 21 07:34:04 PDT 2013

We've had lots of changes.  When we moved into a new house, in a rather cleared out neighborhood, we had lots of Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows.  The Trees continue, but in lower numbers, and the Barns ceased nesting about a decade ago.

Had Bluebirds in the 90s, not any more.
Initially we had Black-capped Chickadees.  As the conifers in the yard grew we have had Chestnut-backed move in and now have both. Evening and Black-headed Grosbeaks have increased. with at least the Black-heads nesting.  Purple Finch seems to have somewhat replaced House Finch , and the Purples nest too.  Spotted Towhees have increased as the bushes/ groundcover gets thicker.  We have more Mourning Dove, and the Collared Dove, too.  The increase in passerines has led to an increase in Accipters ; feeders support both.  Crossbills seem to be around most of the year and have broyght young to the feeders.
Used to have White-crowned Sparrows nesting; hardly see them now.  Goldfinch are pretty common.
Seems that as the yards' landscaping ages we get different species. As Dennis noted, Cowbirds have moved in in the last year or two.  

Part of what may be happening here, in addition to the change in habitat, is the reduction in crows.  Even though a neighbor feeds them, the numbers seem way down (West Nile?) and I think that has benefited all the cup nesters .
Hal Michael
Olympia WA
360-459-4005 (H)
360-791-7702 (C)
ucd880 at comcast.net

----- Original Message -----

From: "Dennis Paulson " < dennispaulson @comcast.net>
To: "TWEETERS tweeters" <tweeters at u. washington . edu >
Sent: Thursday, June 20, 2013 12:15:52 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] how "good" is a bird?--entirely a matter of perspective

Hello, tweets.

Had a good bird in the yard this morning - a cowbird. What? I should explain that I've lived in the same house for almost 22 years now and have seen the changes in bird populations in our yard and neighborhood, and a cowbird is an exciting sighting!

For a few days in May and again right now, we've had a first-year male Brown-headed Cowbird coming to our feeders. Charming, as we hadn't seen one here since 2006.

House Sparrows were abundant when we moved in in 1991, but they virtually disappeared a few years ago. Now it's exciting when one occasionally turns up at the feeders.

At least one Olive-sided Flycatcher could be heard in the neighborhood through a fair part of the summer for the next 14 years (through 2006). Had to be more than one bird, as they don't live that long. The only ones I've heard after that were on single days in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Barn and Violet-green Swallows and Vaux's Swifts were daily occurrences overhead every summer, but I never see them now. Last swift was in 2005, last Barn Swallow in 2006; I've seen sporadic Violet-greens, however.

Although I see Black-headed Grosbeaks every summer, they seem to be sporadic, with no indication that they have ever bred within hearing distance of our yard. They come and go from the feeders, usually first-year males but occasionally mature ones, then immatures in fall. I guess their status has remained consistent, as I see them at least briefly every year.

Olive-sided Flycatchers, like so many other neotropical migrants, are known to be declining, as are some of the swallows, but the loss of cowbirds and House Sparrows from the neighborhood was a little more surprising. Other losses, e.g., Golden-crowned Sparrows, can probably be attributed to the increased forest canopy in our yard.

On the other hand, Dark-eyed Juncos, only winter visitors, began to breed in the neighborhood in the summer of 2009 and have done so every summer since then. I never saw Yellow-rumped Warblers in the winter at first, but they have visited our suet feeders during the last two years, perhaps lured in by the ever-present Townsend's.

Has anyone else seen changes comparable to these?

Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115
dennispaulson @comcast.net

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