Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Observations on the Season So Far

At least one of July’s resident birds is reappearing on Roundtop in good numbers this summer—house finches (see photo). Last year, I saw only a few. The year before that I saw but a single bird all year long. For the two or so years before that, nothing. Oddly, I never saw an ill finch on the mountain, no sightings of finches with eyes closed by conjunctivitis. Perhaps they don’t last as long, here on the mountain, as some of the finches who lived in more sheltered environments. In any event, before the commonly called "house finch disease" depleted their numbers, the birds were common at Roundtop and regular visitors to my feeders, with even greater numbers of them at the feeders down at the ski lodge.
I have not yet had any of them reappear at my feeders, but they are again verging on being a common local species. Their numbers are not as common as they were before conjunctivitis, but at the current rate of increase, they are likely to be so next year or the year after, at the latest.
Another bright spot in my otherwise dismal list of 33 species seen so far in July are the Eastern kingbirds. Kingbirds are not common on the mountain, though the grassy ski slopes cut through the forest provide some habitat for them. This year has been one of the best years I’ve seen for them. I am sure of at least 3 and possibly 4 nesting pairs. Reproduction was good this summer, and the scruffy looking "teenaged" birds are now terrorizing bugs across the mountain.
My impression is that some of the fulltime residents of Roundtop are being a bit slow to reappear after the quiet time of nesting. I’ve yet to see young nuthatches, cardinals or titmice, for example, nor are the adult birds out and about calling or scolding either, making me think they are still paying attention to nesting duties. This continued quiet from them seems a bit longer than is typical. Chickadees, in contrast, are starting to be out and noisy again and have been for past 7-10 days, though not yet at their full number.
Every year, every season on the mountain has something unusual about it. Seasons are never the same, though some are more different than others. I always think you can see the weather reflected in the plants and animals on the ground. Does the extended quiet some of the nesting species somehow reflect this continued spell of dry weather? Did early nests fail, leaving the birds to begin again? Did the extended cooler weather of spring simply push back the start of nesting? Trying to find the connection, the "meaning" for the difference is the difficult part. I’m better at asking the questions than at answering them.

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