We have had a warm, dry season so far and the Rosy-Finches missed the Christmas Bird Count! They weren't quite a month late, arriving here on New Year's Eve. Last year they were here on December 4th but this year at least they arrived in December, even if it was the last day of the year. And if things go typically, now that they're here, they come on early mornings and only when we get a snow storm. At first only a few hundred come, but soon the numbers grow to huge flocks. Every year I have exponentially more Rosy-Finches and last year had as many as 600 in my yard at any one time. This year I suppose I could have 1000 of them visiting. Early in the season, they come only in the morning and only when it snows but as the cold continues and the snow increases, they begin to stay later and come more often.
All three species come: Brown-capped, pretty much endemic to Colorado; Gray-crowned, including Hepburn's; and Blacks. The flocks are always mixed and even fairly tame. While they do whirl up and wheel around a lot, they will actually land at my feet. Sometimes I can walk right up to them. When they fly, it's breath-taking. The underside of their wings are silver and a flock moves in unison, like large schools of fish in the sea.
Today is January 1st of 2011 and I watched birds, on and off, most of the day. It was quite stunning with the yellows of the Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins and Goldfinches; the reds of House Finches, Cassin's Finches and Woodpeckers and Flickers; with the blues of the jays and orca-like look of Magpies with the blacks of the Red-winged Blackbirds. Stripes, spots, streaks, barred and buffy breasts; big birds and tiny...it was visually quite exciting.
It was also quiet a good part of the day. While out re-filling feeders and scattering more seed under evergreens and where the lawn meets tall grass, I startled a good sized Cooper's Hawk. But later in the day I watched a young Sharp-shinned Hawk race through the yard scattering every bird in sight. I watched it land and thought it'd missed its lunch, but when I came back out with my little, old camera, I watched it pluck and eat...someone. I don't know who. I know this is a young bird because it's still got spots on it's back. I don't know the sex, but imagine it may have been a female as they are larger than males. This was not the smallest Sharpy I've ever seen.
It was a treat to see the winter birds: Cassin's Finch, White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, so many versions of Dark-eyed Junco and a White-winged Dove even made an appearance. Happy New Year!