Dies caniculares, the dog days of summer have provided warm, sultry temperatures to South Fidalgo Island. After a week of hot weather, the weekend brought overcast skies and a cool down. Activity at the two BirdCam stations brings the usual late summer pattern. A lot of juveniles are making their debuts while summer and year-around residents are looking a bit past their prime. In the morning twilight, an oregonus Spotted Towhee male enjoys some suet for breakfast at BirdCam Two. In early morning and evening, I would hear calls that resembled a coach's whistle coming from the trees. I finally figured out it was one of the Spotted Towhee's vocalizations.
A group of Chestnut-backed Chickadees is called a banditry. These little guys are bold and energetic and their visits come with a lot of chatter. I get dozens of them in the Madrona trees where they forage for spiders and insects.
The Black-headed Grosbeak is our only member of the Cardinal family. The name actually describes the male's plumage. I am seeing females and juveniles at both BirdCam stations every day, but no adult males have appeared recently. These are common summer birds here that spend their winters in Mexico.
Identified by a gimpy toe on the right foot, we have seen this Steller's Jay here before. These Corvids are active, intelligent birds that don't miss a thing in their territory. I am certain they have peanut radar. When I hear hawks calling from the Douglas Firs, I am not fooled one bit. I know it's a Steller's Jay performing one of its tricks.
Northern Flickers are year-around residents of South Fidalgo Island. They have been drumming on the house all weekend. In the spring they drum on the metal cap of my fireplace chimney to attract mates. This time of year, I think they do it because it's fun. They cause no damage, as far as I can tell, and the noises tell me they are comfortable visiting the yard. The red mustache mark identifies a red-shafted male. Our yellow-shafted males and red/yellow hybrids have a black mustache.
I have been using pepper suet in the feeders, and this has solved my Eastern Gray Squirrel problem. Unfortunately, the European Starlings are not repelled by it. They can come in swarms and polish off a cake in a few hours. My only recourse is to leave the feeder empty for a few days until they move on. This juvenile is as greedy and rapacious as the adults. No, I don't like them.
On the other hand, the Northwestern Crow is a delight, and a bird I never expected to catch at a BirdCam station. But then, why not? Another crafty Corvid, they have successfully learned to coexist with humans. Having evolved alongside people, they maintain a special connection with us. In the book, In the Company of Crows and Ravens, UW researchers beautifully describe this amazing relationship.
Another Red-shafted Northern Flicker, this time a female, is accompanied by a European Starling adult.
A Black-headed Grosbeak joins the Northern Flicker. Both are birds of the forest edge habitat.
Groups of Chestnut-backed Chickadees like this are not always congenial. I have caught them scrapping in BirdCam photos. They will even take on much bigger birds, like the Starlings, if they have to. Go Chickadee!