Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So That's What They Were . . .

So, a few weeks ago I happened to look out the window and noticed a number of small, brown, v. active little birds feeding from the tight little cones in our stunted conifer on that side. I wasn't able to see them v. well, given my eyesight and their size and speed, but was certain they weren't a kind I'd see before, being even smaller than the chickadees, yet the tails were too long and straight for them to be wrens. Then a week or so later they came back and Janice and I were both able to see them. And now for the past several days they've been appearing on-again & off-again at the suet feeder out back -- quite an amazing sight, mixing freely with the occasional chickadee (which helped me confirm that they were definitely smaller than the chickadees, previously the smallest birds I've noticed aside of course from our hummingbirds).

So yesterday I asked the folks at Wild Birds Unlimited, where I'd gone to stock up on finch mix (there being heavy demand this time of year) what they might be. Small, fast, brown, thin, appearing in flocks of ten to twenty, attracted to the suet, longish tail. Ah yes, they said: bushtits. Except they would be grey, not brown. They showed me the picture in a bird-book, and they were right. A little research since revealed that bushtits, the smallest of all passerine birds, were first identified as a species in the Seattle area, so it's probably just chance I've never noticed them before. I did find one image online that gives a pretty good idea of what our suet feeder has looked like when they descend upon it:

--John R.

No comments: