The Joy of Patch Birding

Jim Chiropolos

My birding has consisted of birding my local patches recently and I have found it very rewarding. I have been walking the same routes from the house consecutive days and March/April is a really cool season and seeing how the warbler flocks behave has been really interesting. I have always wondered, do warbler flocks have territory or do they range over different habitat every day? Based on recent observations, I think warbler flocks have territories like sparrows. On my walks and at home, I seem to see similar flocks in the same locations at the same time of the day. In my yard area, one flock starts out most mornings in the gully and after 9 am, the flock disappears for the rest of the day only to reappear the next morning in the same location, same time. Along my patch, there are two big warbler flocks, one all Townsends warblers with some vireos and the other flock Townsends with myrtle and Audobons yellow rump warblers. I am finding these big flocks in the same places either 3/3 or 2/3 of birding walks at the same time. I would guess they are the same flocks in the same locations. In addition, I had no idea my local patches had such interesting birds at this time of year (embarrassing!).

The yard has been interesting too lately. Our house came with a tiny hole in the siding where chickadees nest and raise one or two broods every year. Yesterday, we saw the chickadees bring food to the nest hole all day every 10 minutes or so. I think this is the earliest breeding with young born ever at the house. When the young fledge is very exciting and scary, because the first day the young are out of their nest, they are terrible flyers. This is the one day the scrub jays change their behavior and take an unhealthy interest in the young chickadees. So far I have not seen the scrub jays catch one, but it points to very opportunistic predatory behavior by the jays.

Lastly, I occasionally see a house finch in the yard with a deformed bill. The bird almost features a "normal" bill, but there is a needle like extension the length of the bill on the upper beak - if it was curved this bill would match a Hawaiin 'Akiapola'au (one of the coolest birds in the world found only on the big island of Hawaii). I wonder, is there a gene in finches for longer upper bills?

A lot of interesting stuff to see out there. Good Birding!

Jim Chiropolos
Birding my local patches in Orinda