I heard and watched several waves of Redpolls move through the Birch trees this morning as I was filling up the feeders. It had snowed/snizzled a little bit during the night and it was looking a lot like winter. Then I heard it – the twittery warble of a winter finch. I say winter finch because sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the different songs of the finches: Purple Finch, Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, Goldfinch, Redpoll. But I just knew in my heart that this bird’s song was the one finch that I was looking for, the gorgeous Pine Grosbeak, our Cardinal of the Boreal woods.
I watched them as they fed in a Jack Pine and then one flew down to an Ash Tree! They’ll find an abundant source of seeds this year in some of those trees.
Any day now, the Pine Grosbeaks should be moving back into northern Minnesota for the winter. That is their idea of a southern vacation. Pine Grosbeaks spend most of the season in Canada where they breed, but come October and November, they start to wander south. One of the foods that they favor are the seeds of the Ash tree.
Ash tree laden with seed
I watch these trees in particular during the late fall, because that is where it seems the first of the Pine Grosbeaks will stop and eat.
Some Ash trees in the area have an exceptional crop of seeds.
Here is a video that I took a few years ago of a couple of Pine Grosbeaks munching on the seeds. This video has had an incredible 27,203 views – the most of any of my videos – interesting.
And I wasn’t disappointed. I picked these Cranberries just from the trail without getting my feet wet. If I wanted more, I would have to go back with some good waterproof boots, or better yet, hip waders.
Hunting Shack River
It has been a beautiful fall for hiking and hunting.
The Gray Jays, or Canada Jays as they were formerly known, are exceedingly friendly at Crane Lake.
These saavy Jays have many nicknames, among them “Camp Robber”, “Timberjay”, “Lumberjack” and my favorite “Whiskeyjack”.
Gray Jay in hand
It’s interesting to note the different names for this familiar bird of the Boreal forest. The scientific name is Perisoreus canadensis, with the species part of the name meaning “of Canada”. The Whiskeyjack name is thought to be a corruption of the Algonquin Indian name for the bird, “Wisakajack”. It was named as such by the Algonquins for a mischievous spirit of the forest who liked to play tricks on people.
Yesterday there were lots of Geese passing over Crane Lake. Migration is on in full force.
I just happened to be outside and heard the calls of the Geese. It was a higher pitched honking which made me think they were Snow Geese. The light was bad and I could only make out the silhouettes in my binoculars, I couldn’t see any white. The necks look kind of short in these photos which would indicate smaller Geese and maybe would make them Snow Geese.
I just wonder how much I miss by being indoors at this time of the year. Note to self: get outside!
The last Hummingbird I saw at the feeder was on Thursday morning, September 15th. That morning it was only 21 degrees. After that the feeders have been quiet. I still have mine out however, as stragglers may still be coming through. It’s especially important now to have sugar water available for them as they would need the energy to continue on their trip. Some people leave them out until winter is truly here and even longer. Laura Erickson of Duluth had a rare hummingbird visit into December. Don’t worry about enticing a bird to stay longer because of your feeder – they know when it’s the time to go south.
The Goldfinches have started bringing their young ones into the feeders. You can hear the youngsters when they’re around by their loud begging calls.
This young Goldfinch was trying to figure out how the adults were getting food from the Thistle feeder. He kept picking at the frayed end of the rope that was tied to the feeder. It looked like he may have been confusing the fraying with Canadian Thistle that has gone to seed – that is a favorite food of Goldfinches.
Goldfinch feeding juvenile
Finally one of the adults gave in to the insistence of the young bird and came up and fed him. There was a lot of commotion as the young one was fluttering his wings in classic bird begging style. I’ve read that Goldfinches feed their babies a slurry of seed and saliva. That would explain the adult’s behavior, as he ate a lot of Thistle seed first before going and feeding the juvenile.