[Tweeters] exciting yard birds

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 26 07:54:35 PDT 2022

Dear Tweeters,
Since Anna Kopitov inquired about interesting yard birds, I will chime in. About ten days ago, a large number of White-crowned Sparrows showed up at my place, near Lyman in the Skagit Valley. This was a larger than usual incursion. Yesterday I was able to count 48 White-crowned Sparrows in the yard, and this morning, 51! There have been only a handful of times when I've seen over ten here at one time, and the most I remember seeing was about 30, which was also in late April, just a few years ago. These birds are not the local breeding subspecies, which would be pugetensis.
The routine naming of birds by their subspecies normally elicits at least a silent harrumph from me, if not an audible one. That goes for White-crowned Sparrows and a lot of other species as well. I think that there are now a lot of birders who have noticed lists of subspecific epithets on eBird;  then they automatically assign those names to the birds that they see in their particular area. Harrumph.
Roger Tory Peterson addressed this matter in his classic Field Guide to the Birds. In an appendix to this work, he quotes Dr. George Miksch Sutton at length. Sutton's remarks conclude with the following gem: "The use of the trinomial very often is a sort of four-flushing." I don't play poker, but I know what that means.
Nonetheless, I can tell that the great majority of the White-crowned Sparrows visiting my place right are not the local breeders. I reckon they must be gambelii. The local breeding birds had been here for several weeks before the migrants arrived. I had been hearing the local breeders singing their song, which always sounds like, "Hey, yooooou, gimme back my cheese!" Those birds must be pugetensis. Over the last ten days or so, the songs of the migrant White-crowned Sparrows have been drowning out those of the locals. I can never figure out how to characterize the song of the migrant White-crowns, but it is nothing like that of our local breeders. The migrants are almost certainly gambelii. 
Yesterday the throng of sparrows and other birds at my feeders disappeared for a while. That was because an Accipiter flew in and perched on the bird-bath! This was a spiffy adult Cooper's Hawk, sporting an aluminum band on its right leg. Alas, I could not read the band through the windowpane. There were no color bands that I could see.
This morning a female Black-headed Grosbeak visited the feeder. This is a few days early.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch

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