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Pine Grosbeak

Due to time constraints and the onset of harsh winter weather that tends to hide species from view (it is snowing as I type), I have decided to cut back on my daily blogging.  I will try to continue to post whenever I encounter a new species.  I don’t expect to find any more Wyoming wildflowers this year, but perhaps there are a few more birds and mammals that I can yet blog about.

For instance:  the pine grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator.  On a recent, surprisingly warm, snowless hike in the Snowy Range I saw a flash of red fly into a nearby spruce tree.  At first I thought it was a red crossbill, but I managed to snap a photo of the bright bird and on closer inspection it appears to have the large, finchy bill and white wingbars of the pine grosbeak.

While the males have distinctive red plumage–sort of like extra-large house finches—females and juveniles are more subdued with yellow, orange or even olive green touches.  The photo of the female to the left was also taken in the Snowy Range, but during the summer.  I have also encountered grosbeaks in Glacier National Park, MT.

These birds can sometimes appear fairly tame, allowing people to come quite close.  The female that I encountered did not seem very concerned about me taking pictures.  Pine grosbeaks can often be easily overlooked since they can remain very still instead of drawing attention to themselves by abruptly flying up.

This is another hardy species that stays in Wyoming year round.  One more bird to look for on winter excursions!

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Nature

 

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Chaffinch

United Kingdom, May 2012–Another bird that followed me around England was the chaffinch, Fingilla coelebs.  The male is a colorful little guy, with flashy white wingbars, a pinkish breast, and a blue-grey hood.  He has a long, pretty song that I heard on almost a daily basis during my holiday wanderings.

The female is more of an olive green and brown, but she, too, has the distinctive white wingbars.  She tends to draw much less attention to herself than the outgoing male.

 

This species is another that I saw for the first time when I visited Wales a few years ago.  I was glad to observe more of them on this trip!

The internet reveals no lack of nickames for this widespread European species.  The bird with its typical finchy beak can be called a white finch, copper finch, beech finch, buck finch, pied finch, or horse (hoose) finch.  Other possibilities are wheatbird, whitewing, boldy, roberd, flecky flocker, snabby, and pink twink.  The list goes on and on with regional variations such as shillapple, sheldafle, shellapple shiltie, and apple-sheeler.

Wikipedia adds that “English naturalist Charles Swainson recorded 36 names for the chaffinch in his Provincial Names and Folk Lore of British Birds (1885), including brichtie, brisk finch, briskie, bullspink, bully, charbob, daffinch, maze finch, pea finch, pine finch, and snabby.”  Whew!

Wikipedia also states, “Popular belief holds that the chaffinch’s song foretells rain, leading to the name wetbird.”  Wetbird isn’t the nicest name. Some of the other suggestions are just too silly.  I think I prefer chaffy as a suitable nickname, although charbob is kind of appealing.  I refuse to insult this guy by calling him “robinet.”

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Nature

 

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American Goldfinch

A great little visitor of spring is the American goldfinch, Spinus tristis.  I recently saw a group of four of these near the Poudre River in Northern Colorado, and a few days later some visited my backyard.  They didn’t stay long enough for me to get the photographs I really wanted, but at least they stopped by for a little snack, allowing me to take a few snaps.

Once called Carduelis tristis and Astragalinus tristis, American goldfinches can also be referred to as wild carnaries or eastern goldfinches.  But they are western birds, too!  They actually can be found all over the U.S. and are the state bird of Washington, New Jersey and Iowa.

These birds are vegetarians, eating mainly seeds instead of a seed/insect mix.  They often travel with other birds like pine siskins.  Above, one shares the feeder with a female house finch.

The males are generally the brighter and more recognizable of this species with their bright yellow plumage, black and white wings and sassy black cap.  They are not quite so vibrant outside of the breeding season, and, apparently, these birds are often misidentified during the winter because they aren’t quite so gold.  The females are a bit more subdued in color even during the spring, as you can kind of tell from the picture below, but they at least get to be more than just brown like so many female birds.  But the males are still the pretty boys!

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Nature

 

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Pine Siskin Pictures

Three friendly little pine siskins decided to visit the backyard feeders while I was out there, letting me get some much better resolution photos that I just had to post.  I hope these guys stick around for the summer!

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Nature

 

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Pine Siskin

The pine siskins (I dig their scientific name Spinus pinus)have suddenly returned to Laramie.  I first saw these birds last May–I had never even heard of this species before, so it took a little while and numerous bird guides before I figured out who they were–and now they are back to enjoy the spruced up backyard amenities of the new birdbath and finch feeder.

These birds are a little smaller than the house finches and house sparrows who have been monopolizing the feeders.  Though at first they may be mistaken for small female house finches, they have much more pointed bills and show yellow markings when they flutter their wings and tails.

These guys used to be called pine finches, Carduelis pinus.  They like to feed on the pine seeds in cones, even those on the very tops of trees, and will often hand upside down to get the best angle.  They also eat other types of seeds as well as insects and caterpillars.

The Chipper Woods Bird Observatory has a great website with exellent information and pictures of pine siskins.  I look forward to seeing them enjoy the backyard for awhile.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Nature

 

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