Saturday, April 16, 2011

Still Seeing Spots

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus) are common year-around birds on South Fidalgo Island and throughout the Pacific Northwest.  A previous post from early March revealed the discovery of Towhees here with more spots than we usually see.  They seemed to be birds normally seen further east and south which wandered into our area.  In a subsequent post, these variants were identified by Greg Gillson as P. m. 'curtatus' or Nevada Towhees.  Their normal range is southeast British Columbia, eastern Washington, through Idaho, Nevada and into southeastern California.  Our local 'oregonus' variants of the Northwest coast are much less spotted as exemplified by this female:

Spotted Towhee

At the time, the question was whether these spottier birds were just winter visitors or migrants passing through.  Since I am still catching photos of them at the BirdCam stations, it is beginning to appear that some may have settled here permanently.  Perhaps this is the beginning of a local population of extra spotty hybrids.  It will be something worth keeping an eye on and spot check, so to speak.

Monday, April 4, 2011

You Again!

Eastern Gray Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

I was wondering how long it would take this guy to discover that there were sunflower seeds back at the BirdCam station.  It took him a little more than two weeks.  You're slipping up there, fella.  Looks like it's time to switch to safflower seed again.  We'll see what that will attract now that the spring birds are starting to return.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Friday, April 1, 2011

Townsend's Chipmunk

Townsend's Chipmunk

As already noted, more than birds are seen at the BirdCam station.  This is a Townsend's Chipmunk (Tamias townsendii) said to be one of the largest of the western chipmunks.  It is also called Neotamias townsendii, but I don't know why.  They belong to the Sciurid family along with squirrels, marmots, woodchucks and prairie dogs.  They are named after naturalist John Kirk Townsend.

Townsend's Chipmunk

Their range extends from the southwest corner of British Columbia through western Washington and Oregon.  Their colors are darker than other chipmunks, explained as a characteristic of species living in moist climates.  I haven't quite reasoned that out yet.  Coloration is sometimes an adaptation for camouflage.  Perhaps it's because our landscape colors tend to be darker than, say, the pastels of a desert.

Townsend's Chipmunk

Of all the creatures that visit the garden, these are among the most appealing.  I have never minded them visiting the feeders.  They're not nearly as greedy as the Eastern Gray Squirrels.  They gather food in their cheeks and hoard it in their burrows.  You can attract them to your yard by creating brush or rock piles in out-of-way places.

Townsend's Chipmunk
"Mmm, ffese ffunffower ffeeds are really good!"

Townsend's Chipmunk