[Tweeters] Marblemount finches at salt-lick

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 7 17:04:11 PDT 2021

Dear Tweeters,
Today, the seventh of October, birding was relatively slow in the Upper Skagit Valley. It was a beautiful day, though, and there were several spots where one could view large numbers of spawning sockeye salmon. Here and there, Corvids and Glaucous-winged Gulls were feeding on the carcasses. 
At Ranger Station Road, I was treated to a flock of Pine Siskins and Red Crossbills. Most of these birds were at a salt lick. In the more northerly of the two mule pastures, there is a trough, fed by a continually dripping hydrant. I think that the dripping is intentional, but am not sure if that's what the NPS had in mind. This is north of the Ranger Station itself, next to an area where old, discarded equipment is stored.
Beside the trough is one of those plastic, bucket-like holders, made to hold a mineral block or salt lick. It looked as if quite a few large tongues had worked over this salt lick over the past few months. The Siskins and Redpolls spent little to no time on or near the mineral block itself. However, they crowded around the ground at the base of the holder, where there was some standing water. I was not sure if the birds were drinking the salty water, or perhaps gleaning little bits of mineral that might have fallen away from the block. The birds allowed me to approach within four meters, as I took partial cover behind a gate.
I use similar mineral blocks for my goats, and I don't remember ever seeing birds showing any interest in them--not even my chickens. I have seen finches foraging on old fire pits, apparently eating charcoal, but I cannot remember ever seeing them at a salt lick before.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch
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