Junco

A dark-eyed junco perches in a tree in New England.

Birdwatching firsts are always exciting. Whether it is the first time ever seeing a particular bird, seeing a bird for the first time of the year or seeing one in your yard for the first time, firsts are good for a little adrenaline rush.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a first-ever bird. I’ll have to think on that one for a bit. The other day, however, I did have a first-of-the-season bird that was cause for celebration.

You get so used to seeing the regular birds and learning their movements and personalities that you know immediately when you see something different. I looked out into the backyard the other day and a bird hopped onto a low-hanging branch. Its shape seemed a little different than the chickadees, titmice and nuthatches that have been visiting in droves and are year-round birds. It also perched still on that branch whereas those other birds would have stopped for a moment and flew off somewhere else.

Knowing it was something different, I ran for the binoculars and zeroed in on my first dark-eyed junco of the season. By March, dark-eyed juncos will not be as exciting as we will have been seeing them daily for the past several months. But in the fall, that first junco is a worthy sighting indeed.

Dark-eyed juncos will soon become regular at my feeder, especially when it snows. They get an extra sense of urgency and hop all over my deck looking for seeds when snow is falling. At previous homes I have lived in, white-throated sparrows have joined the juncos around this time of year. For whatever reason, this house doesn’t seem to attract many white-throated sparrows, even though the habitat seems suitable. If I see one or two a winter, I consider myself lucky.

I don’t know what other birds will show up this winter, but I am looking forward to the first-of-the-season sightings of those birds. I wrote last week about the winter finch irruption forecast, so perhaps pine siskins or purple finches will show up and stay a while.

I have received more reports of siskins invading people’s feeder stations. Scott from Stoddard put out his feeders one morning and “within an hour our small feeder was being completely overrun by what I identified as pine siskins. There must have been nearly 40 of them coming and going in a steady flow nearly all day.”

Certainly sounds like something siskins would do. Stock up on thistle (Nyjer) seed if you have siskins visiting. They come in flocks and hang around all day, usually with a few goldfinches mixed in. Siskins and goldfinches are both small birds and have somewhat similar coloration, but look for streaky plumage. Siskins have a streaked appearance and goldfinches are more ”smooth.”

Drop me a line, and let me know what seasonal firsts are showing up.

For the Birds runs Mondays in The Sentinel. Chris Bosak may be reached at chrisbosak26@gmail.com or through his website www.birdsofnewengland.com