this is not from Netta Smith

Netta Smith nettasmith at
Sat Nov 23 09:46:59 PST 2002

Several people have written me about my post on sparrow species in our yard,
so I thought I'd follow up.

The White-throated Sparrow left after being here about 3 days.

The Fox Sparrow is staying for the winter, but it's somewhat elusive, and I
don't see it every day, even on the days I'm home all day and looking out
in the yard a lot. It's often apparent because it's a really vigorous
scratcher, sort of like a hybrid between a Song Sparrow and a towhee.

We have at least two Song Sparrows. They are feisty (= territorial), and
there is often one in the front yard and one in the back yard.

Much to my amazement, we have at least 5 Spotted Towhees. The sexes are
sufficiently similar that in the dark Northwest light I haven't worked out
the sex ratio, but I think there are more males than females. But several
times now I have seen 4 of them all within a space of 15-20' in the back
yard, so they get along better than I implied in my previous post. I think
every winter we have at least one towhee from the interior, with more
conspicuous white spots on the upperparts and more white in the tail tip.

After a very slow start, we have more juncos than usual, at least a dozen or
more, and still one nice male Slate-colored. I was home sick much of this
week, and I got to see some interesting variations on yard birding. On
Tuesday (11/19), when it was so stormy, the yard was full of birds all day,
as many as I ever see. There were almost constantly juncos and towhees in
sight cracking millet seeds as fast as they could. A large cotoneaster in
the back yard is full of berries now, and it had a half-dozen robins in it
through much of the day, also a gorgeous male Varied Thrush, the first I've
seen this fall. A steady stream of Black-capped Chickadees came to and
from the sunflower seed sources, like a feathered conveyor belt. Both
species of kinglets were in sight on and off in a little bunch of birches
that seem especially good for insectivores.

Wednesday dawned sunny and beautiful and stayed that way all day. There was
scarcely a bird in the yard. Literally, any time I looked out I saw nothing
at all, and the contrast with the day before was striking. Not a robin to
be seen all day, the chickadees were about the only thing that remained
something like the day before. I suppose all of us who maintain feeders
know that the birds visit them more in bad weather, but this was really

I also saw as large a Bushtit flock as I've ever seen, estimated at 50 birds
flying a few at a time for a prominent Douglas-fir. Each time I was sure
I'd seen the last bird, a few more would fly out. Time to get the Bushtit
Research Bunch in action again!

And we have at least 4 Anna's Hummingbirds, an adult male, two different
immature males, and a female. I write "at least" again and again, because
without banding them, you never really know the number of individuals in
your yard, as it's very unlikely they will all be in sight at once.

Dennis Paulson (NOT Netta Smith, my wife keeps asking me to inform you; she
doesn't want to get a reputation as a birder)
Netta Smith and Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115

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