Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for birds, whether it be the Peregrine approaching 200 miles per hour in a dive to kill a pigeon, the turkey on the dining room table, or the Rosy-Finches that arrive in the winter to brighten our days.

Almost a year ago, on the winter solstice, I posted a blog entry about the Rosy-Finches I saw after unsuccessfully seeking them for years. In short, I had found Rosy-Finches, but believed them to be Black Rosy-Finches instead of the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches I had heard were to be found there.

I want to thank Louie Quintana for posting to the IBLE (Idaho Birders Linked Electronically) Listserv that he had seen Black Rosy-Finches, because he was the first one to make me aware that this separate species could be seen in Idaho at the location I visited last year.

Here's the photo from 2008. I decided it was a Black Rosy-Finch. I admit the light was less than ideal, as they come to roost in Cliff Swallow nests as the last light of day fades, but they really looked black on the chest to me.

This year I studied the pictures in my bird books once again, and the big difference would be if the birds were brown or black, it seemed to me. I figured all I needed to do was find one that looked brown instead of the black I had been seeing.

On my way there I first heard, then saw, as it came quite close by me, a Canyon Wren.

Next a pair of talkative Rock Wrens visited. This is getting quite late in the year for a summertime bird like the Rock Wren to be seen ... but the Canyon Wren will spend the winter here for sure. I was asked if I called these birds to me, and I did not. Some people watch birds, and if you sit quietly you'll discover that some birds watch people.

Then, as the light faded, by twos and threes the Rosy-Finches appeared, working their way down the cliff face, ducking in and out of various nests and crevices. The "early birds" got their pick of accommodations for the night and latecomers would be greeted by a light peck to send them out of the entrance, sending them on their way to seek an unoccupied spot. And, amid the black chested birds came one that stood out even to the unaided eye! A complete gray hood (not just a "crown") on a brown-chested bird.

Now I was free of the dilemma of just how dark the chest of the bird was ... because there are three subspecies of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches. One is found along the coast of Alaska, so I wasn't seeing that one. But the hooded one I saw and photographed is known as the "Coastal" or "Hepburn's" race of Gray-crowned Rosy Finch. The ones with a smaller cap instead of the full gray hood are called in some older books "Cassin's" race.

I want to thank Idaho birder Terry Gray for sharing with me a photo he posted to Flickr showing both races in one photo.

Think of something you are thankful for, and either enjoy it today or make plans to enjoy it soon; and share it with your friends, family and loved ones if at all possible!