Friday, October 5, 2012

Goodbye summer, hello autumn

Autumn reflections in the Oyster River at Yale West Campus. Photo by Karen Hochgraf
 Yep, we passed the autumnal equinox the weekend between this and my last post, so, goodbye summer it is.  With the sun rising later, I can say that I get to enjoy that moment of the day during my commute to work.  On the other hand, when I arrive back home in the late afternoon, there is less and less light for a bit of relaxing in the garden before darkness pushes me indoors.
This week there has been a full moon - beautifully bright, but flooding out the stars.  This time of year in the night sky (on the subject of goodbye, hello) we see the last of my favorite constellation, Cygnus the swan, winging through the Milky Way.  And if you're up late enough, you can greet Orion the hunter climbing up over the eastern horizon.
On the birding scene, it appears that this winter will be a good one for the "irruptive finches".  These finches generally stay north for the winter, but finding their preferred food scarce, have pushed southward for the cold season.  This week in Connecticut hundreds of Pine Siskins were reported, along with many Purple Finches and a few Evening Grosbeaks.  Here's a link to the birding blog, "10,000 Birds", which has a good page on this topic.  Corey, the host, has more time to research and write than I do, so enjoy his description of irrupting birds.
Um... all of that said, WE still don't have Pine Siskins - we'll just have to try harder next week!

American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana. A great source of food for wildlife. Most Phytolacca are herbaceous like the one growing commonly at West Campus, but a few species, such as the Ombú (Phytolacca dioica) of Uruguay and Argentina grows to be a huge shade tree.
West Campus bird list for the two-week period between September 24th and October 5th (in which probably a grand total of one hour of actual birding was done) :

Departing birds:
American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Blue-headed Vireo and Swainson's Thrush
American Kestrel and Bald Eagle
Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Golden-crowned Kinglet
House Wren and Eastern Phoebe
Common Grackle and Brown-headed Cowbird
Gray Catbird

Arriving birds:
White-throated Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco
Seen more frequently this time of year:
Blue Jay and American Crow
Downy Woodpecker and Red-bellied Woodpecker
White-breasted Nuthatch and Carolina Wren

And the year-round crowd:
Northern Cardinal and Song Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin and European Starling
Northern Flicker
Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon
Northern Mockingbird
Canada Goose and Herring Gull
House Finch and American Goldfinch
Red-tailed Hawk

thirty-eight species for our latest two-week period
Have a great weekend - and go birding!

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