Fink Family Farm Bird List

Fink Family Farm Bird List

The only list I faithfully keep is a list of all the birds seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. I thought it would be fun to ad...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Which Carpodacus Finch? Er, that is, Haemorhous Finch

We have mostly Purple Finches here, so when I saw this finch with streaked flanks, I assumed it was a House Finch. I took photos through my dirty upstairs office window (no birds ever fly into *this* window!). After looking at the photos, I decided it had too much color on the back and maybe was a Purple Finch after all. But those streaky sides bothered me. And it looked like it had a peaked crown and not enough color... and pink rather than the raspberry of a Purple Finch. Could it be a Cassin's? Help!

Update: the wonderful folks on Oregon Birds Online offered great advice. First, Dave Irons let me know that my Carpodacus finches are now Haemorhous finches.  He also said: "note that the bird has rather white and unstreaked undertail coverts. House Finches have dingier undertail coverts that are streaked in all plumages." That's another thing I didn't know (or find in my bird books.) Plus, Purple Finch "males of the western subspecies H. p. californicus can show a fair amount of streaking on the flanks." Ah ha!

Joel Geier, who has better eyes than I, said:
"The broad brownish cheek stripe showing through the reddish color on the
head narrows this down to either a Purple Finch or a Cassin's Finch, and
the curved culmen makes it a Purple Finch ..."
I can tell females apart by that head pattern, but sure couldn't see it on this bird. And the culmen looks straight in some of my photos and curved in others. Sigh. 

Very helpful hints came from Judy Meredith, who has told me before (but I always seem to forget) that: "Often the case with ID is perplexing but I tend to use a collection of field marks and look for "most like" versus completely positive of ID." Here is her collection of field marks to separate Cassin's from Purple: 

Undertail streaked in Cassin's, plain white in Purple.
Steaks on flanks crisp on Cassin's and blurred on Purple
Upper bill, culmen, is totally uncurved in Cassin's and has a slight curve in Purple. The Cassin's is as if you put two rulers together to form a triangle. No curve at all.
Back of bird in Cassin's usually has restricted coloring and Purple has wash which goes farther down along the back of the bird.
Chest in center and sides is white in Cassin's and in Purple it is a dingy white, not bright between steaks or central breast area.

Below are the photos lightened from the "photo fix" setting of my photo program. Thanks to all for the help!  I now know this is a western subspecies (streaked flanks) of Purple Finch.

The wonderful folks on OBOL continue to add insights...

Wayne Hoffman provided the reason for the name change:

"...There are some pinkish Eurasian finches (rosefinches) that look sort of
like our 3, and they were named Carpodacus.   Subsequently, taxonomists
noted the similarity of ours to those and put them in the same genus.
 Now, DNA analyses have shown that they are not close relatives, but
instead the resemblance is convergence.  The evidence says that the
Asian rosefinches are more closely related to Bullfinches, Canaries,
Goldfinches, and Siskins than they are to Cassin's, Purple, and House
finches.  Thus, they do not belong in the same genus, and because the
Rosefinches got the name Carpodacus first, they get to keep it..

Now, according to the rules of priority (older names have priority over
newer ones) the next oldest name that was ever used for any of the
American 3 was Haemorhous, so that is what we get."

Pamela Johnstone explained bird colors from an artist's point of view...
" In my mind there are dyed and painted birds. The analogy has nothing to do with real birds. Male American Goldfinches are painted. Birds with a more transparent coloring like the Haemorus are dyed, because the brown shows through the red, which was applied with dye or watercolor after the brown was laid on."

Pam also noted that both House and Purple finches can come in many red/orange/yellow shades depending,  on diet. "Both have color deficiencies when they don’t get enough carotenoids in their diet... Females don’t change, since it’s only the red that depends on carotenoids."

"Females are easier to i.d than males because the colors don’t vary and the brown markings show their difference. The brown streak that people talk about on a PUFI’s face shows up really well on them. I think of it as a thumbprint, which means that it’s fairly broad, not like a line through the eye. It looks as if someone set their thumb with the nail toward the bird’s bill and pressed a brown ink mark over its eye. The body streaks are easier to see, too."
"PUFI have a bigger base to the bill, that extends higher up the forehead. HOFI have a blunt little forehead above a dark beak, and PUFI have a continuous slope down the profile from forehead to beak tip."

Thanks, all!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Anna's Hummingbird... Farm Bird #151

Although Anna's Hummingbirds are common both summer and winter in areas east of us, we have never had one here that I've seen. But a few weeks ago, Johnny saw a hummer hovering outside the back door. I caught a glimpse of it perched on a weed before it flew off and disappeared. I quickly filled my long empty hummingbird feeders, since our Rufous hummers are only here in the summer. But nothing came to drink until today... Friday the 13th (always my lucky day).

I had put a feeder outside my milk room window so I could watch for hummers there. The other feeders are outside the kitchen window but I'm in the barn more often than in the kitchen. This morning while doing the morning milking, I caught a glimpse of a hummingbird feeding from that feeder. I had my camera with me so took photos through the milk room window.

Thanks to the several birders more knowledgeable than I about winter Anna's who, after viewing the photos, let me know that this is, indeed, an Anna's Hummingbird. Floyd Shrock said: "No doubt in my mind, Linda, that you have an Anna's there. I notice the greenish on the flanks and lower abdomen, and the beginnings of a dark gorget. I'm guessing it's an immature male..."

Click on the photo for larger images.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge

Dawn and I hoped to find the Ruff today (a shorebird that has been seen at Ankeny recently), but we did not. We saw lots of shorebirds, most of which I could not identify. When someone tells me what they are, I'll caption them.

I could identify the peregrine falcon that sat high in a dead tree, keeping watch over all.

                                                       It was a gray day, so I lightened it.

The Great Egrets were easy to recognize... we saw many.

After getting thoroughly chilled at the pull-out by the railroad tracks where the Ruff and its Yellowlegs companions had been seen, we drove to the boardwalk through trees where the wind was not so brutal. Eagle Eye Dawn spotted a Red-breasted Sapsucker along there. I had a hard time finding it in my viewfinder, then holding my heavy camera still for a photo, then getting a picture when the sapsucker's head wasn't hidden. All are a bit blurry. The clearest one has a branch through the bird's head.

We drove on to the Acorn Woodpecker site, where we found no woodpeckers, or anything else moving about in the cold wind and drizzle. So we went onward to the kiosk and there found a zillion birds, including a distant, lone, Greater White-fronted Goose. It was grazing as it walked and not often picking it's head up for a photo.

One Dowitcher was close enough for a reasonable photo... so I took lots of them, front, back and sideways.

I do not know what the rest of these shorebirds are. I await input from knowledgeable folks.

My guess is Western Sandpipers
My guess is Dunlin
Any id help would be appreciated.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sad End for a Golden-crowned Kinglet

The mirrors in my riding arena are covered with tarps and sheets except when I am riding in there. California Quail seemed to like to knock themselves out on those mirrors hence the coverings. Our house windows are littered with decals that birds are supposed to be able to see, plus falcon silhouettes, and swaying-in-the-breeze colorful bird scarers. I had been pleased so far this migration season to have no birds killing themselves on our windows. Until yesterday, when this beautiful Golden-crowned Kinglet appeared lifeless in a pot outside the front door. So sad.

I could not bear to bury such a beautiful tiny creature, so I placed it in the chrysanthemum flowers.

RIP lovely wee bird.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Small Bird

This bird flew into the top of a distant dead tree and darted from dead limb to dead limb apparently finding bugs, or something, to eat. I have no clue what it is. Bill appears too small for a finch, too big for a flycatcher. Maybe it's a vireo? On my computer screen the belly looks yellow but I've learned not to trust my computer colors. I would be delighted if anyone can tell me what it is and why.


Boy, those online birders are quick! Thanks to Jack Williamson and Jane Westervelt for identifying my bug-chasing bird as a female Western Tanager. I don't know why I didn't think of that. But I am impressed they could id it so quickly from such lousy photos.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Baskett Slough Revisited

It's a busy summer and I have seldom had a chance to stop at Baskett Slough. Sunday, on my way back from delivering Johnny and grandson Ian to the train station for their trip south to visit and then bring back the California grandkids,  I stopped. What a lovely interlude! With very little water anywhere on the refuge, the wading birds were close enough for photos. And what lovely wading birds they were. There were nine Great Egrets...

 Four Black-necked Stilts...

Brown back means female?

Two Greater Yellowlegs...

... except one had red legs?? And was very colorful. I presume in breeding plumage?

I asked about the red legs on Oregon Birders Online and found out that everyone who replied sees yellow in these photos, not red. So I guess it's my monitor. But they also looked red-ish in the field. Another person said late afternoon sun brings out the warmer colors.

 There was also a group of Dowitchers, presumably Long-billed, but my photos are useless.

And a couple peeps that I got blurry photos of. I assumed one was a Western Sandpiper. The other, a Dunlin maybe? All I do with peeps is guess.

 I prefer birds that are unquestionably and elegantly what they are...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sooty or Ruffed Grouse?

Okay, I've searched my bird books and the web, asked two birders I respect and... each birder was definitive in his answer... which was opposite the other's.

We saw this bird in the middle of a gravel/dirt road while scouting for our BBS out of Valley of the Giants in the Coast Range. We stopped, she stopped. She talked softly to chicks that were alongside the road in the brush who talked softly back. Eventually, she walked alongside our van (opposite side of the road from her chicks) and to the back of the van where she then crossed the road to her chicks. I thought at the time she was a Ruffed Grouse, as she appeared brown. But when I looked at my photo, she did not look like the Ruffed Grouse in our woods: no crest, no black barring on her flanks, no black band on her tail. (The dark thing at the end of her tail is the shadow of a rock below. Perhaps that's easier to see in the second, original, large version.) Instead she has a gray band at the end of her tail, a very decorative face pattern, and lots of mottling. I found some pictures on the web of Sooty Grouse that look like her but I never trust that what photos are labelled on the web is what they really are. So I asked two good birders. One said Ruffed with certainty. The other said Sooty, with equal certainty. I'd love more feedback with reasons.

Thanks to Hendrik Herlyn for this helpful reply: "Your photos show a Sooty Grouse. One of the key field marks to distinguish between Sooty and Ruffed Grouse is the band at the end of the tail. It is pale slaty-gray in Sooty, while Ruffed has a broad black subterminal band with narrow, buffy tips. In both of your photos, the gray band of a Sooty is clearly visible. Ruffed also tends to have a more  peaked-looking head, due to its little crest. Your bird shows the rounded head of a typical Sooty. The pattern on the flanks is another good indication for Sooty – rows of white spots on a brownish background. Both sexes of Ruffed Grouse show a pattern of pretty obvious black and white barring on the sides."

In a macabre note: On our actual Breeding Bird Survey a week later, I was hoping to see that Sooty Grouse on our route. But we went past the area where we had seen the above bird with no grouse in sight. However, a bit later on the route, we came to this sordid sight by the side of the road, between two of our stops...

Clearly a Ruffed Grouse. How it came to be hanging by its neck from a tree limb is anybody's guess. Foresters call them "Fool Hens" and say if you walk all the way around a stump that a Fool Hen is sitting on, it will watch you and twist its own neck off in the process. Now, I don't think this Fool Hen wrapped its own neck around a limb watching something, but it's hard to imagine a bird of prey managing such a feat after killing the grouse. Some sicko human hanging it after hitting it with his car? Anyone have other ideas? Here's a cropped version showing the neck wrapped around the limb.

There were some down feathers right next to the road, a few feet from the tree. We did not have time to do more than take a couple of quick photos since we were on our BBS route which is tough to finish in the allotted time even without stopping to gander at hanging grouse.

Larry McQueen replied:
"It looks like the head-neck got caught in a fork while flying."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Johnny's Puffin

For years Johnny has been scoping Haystack Rock off of Cape Kiwanda while I scour the cape tidal areas for Black Oystercatchers. For years he has sworn he has seen Tufted Puffins flying into crevices on either side of a "shield-shaped rock". I couldn't see anything and couldn't believe there was a space big enough for a bird to fly into.

Yesterday, May 28, he brought the scope to where I was sitting watching two BLOY below me and wondering if they were going to nest on the Rock this year. "Look at where I've been seeing them. They have been sticking their heads out of holes on either side of that rock. You can see white on their heads and red below."

Red below?

I looked and saw nothing. He said they were not doing it right then. But he had taken photos with his camera. At home, I put the photos on the camera and... he was right. The photos are awful but you can see red feet (his "red below"), black body and white head with maybe a tinge of red where the bill should be. It's a lousy photo, but I do believe he finally has his photo of a Tufted Puffin on Haystack Rock.

shield-shaped rock with puffin on the right top

Johnny took lots of photos... I can see those red feet!

shield-shaped rock when I took a photo... no puffin

Johnny's puffin up close and blurry

puffins both sides, top of rock

puffins closer, sort of

To see these elusive creatures, look at the Rock from the parking area, wheelchair ramp or beach. The ledge, low on the east side, facing the beach, is obvious. Centered above it is Johnny's "shield-shaped rock". I don't know if it's shield shaped but it is a flattish obvious rock with crevices on either side. Note the size of gulls sitting on the ledge to give yourself an idea of how tiny those puffins are going to look. The Rock is a mile off shore.

Cape Kiwanda's Haystack Rock

the ledge, low on rock with shield-shaped rock above it

ledge and rock closer... note the size of that gull left

 Good luck looking... and if you get a better photo of one of "Johnny's puffins", Johnny would love to see it.

I'm glad he finally got his photo and I finally got to see what he was seeing (via his photos). But Black Oystercatchers are much easier... and closer... to see and photograph. Here are the ones I was watching on the cape yesterday.