Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Purple Finches and More

We are now in the best birding season of the year when new birds are arriving daily and the trees still remain leaf bare. It will be another six weeks before foliage will block the view of of the treetops and while I love the fresh green leaves of May, they do hide a lot of bird activity. Today I drove through the country as I heard that Great Blue Herons were already nesting in a rookery a few kilometers from my husband's workplace. There were no herons around when I got there so I went to what has become a favourite spot for easy bird watching.

Guelph Lake Nature Centre was a beehive of activity as many children were participating in the March break day camp. I stood by the feeders but had little expectation of seeing anything unusual due to the noise and traffic of little feet. There were plenty of Chickadees, Pine Siskins and Tree Sparrows about as usual, but I noticed a bit of unfamiliar red high in a nearby tree.

I have looked diligently for Purple Finches and have only seen one group of females feeding on grass seeds near the river. I had never found the males with the "raspberry wash" colouring. Several males came to the feeders and were not frightened off by the children.

I have taken pictures of extra red House Finches at my feeders and hoped that they were Purple Finches. But the reds of the two birds are very different and I will not mistake them again.

There was another bird there today. I heard it before I found it as it remained deep in the brush, scratching for seeds in the ground.

Can you see the Wood Thrush between the fence rails? (click picture to enlarge) It was very well camouflaged. I caught a brief glimpse of the reddish brown colour and thought it was a Fox Sparrow at first. (It really was a Fox Sparrow. See this post for clarification.) This bird was quite intimidated by all the people around but I imagine it would sing its lovely song in the evening and morning when things were quiet.

Once again I proved the rule;- you don't necessarily find what you are looking for, but you always find something you are not expecting.


  1. Wow Ruth, that's surprising about the Great Blue Herons back and nesting already. We should start seeing them arrive back for spring this week or next and the ice is just now starting to come off the ponds and lakes around here.
    Your purple finch pictures are really nice.

  2. Ruth,

    Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. I can see the wood thrush.

    Can you tell me what area of Guelph Lake Conservation Center is the best to see different species of birds? I'd like to take the boys sometime.

    I see you're enjoying our beautiful spring-like weather.


  3. Anonymous4:21 am GMT-4

    That finch is beautiful!! I love little birds... We get a lot in the garden now that it's hot season and they come to drink from the hose. Everything is cheerful until the sparrow hawks arrives - you can tell by the fact that everyone suddenly goes dead silent and stops moving... :-D

  4. Wonderful photos of the purple finch Ruth. And, like you said, once you see the male purple finch, you won't again mistake a house finch for one. :c)

  5. Anonymous7:28 am GMT-4

    I have seen lots of house finches, some with brighter and more red coloring. I thouht maybe it's a purple finch, but now looking at your picture, I was sadly mistaken. What a beautiful bird. I hope to spot one soon with my own eyes.

    Very keen eyes you have on the wood thrust. Are they usually ground feeders? I thought I saw one in the bush at the farm last year, but he was the size of a robin. I only saw it for a quick moment as a big dog scared it. (I wonder who that could have been)

    I hope to get sme birding in this weekend...will be tough babysitting 4 kids...but I'm going to try. Happy birding!

  6. Ruthie- I know this is early for GBHs but I have seen the pictures of others who have seen them. This March is much warmer than last. Shallow swamps are still frozen, but the rivers are clear of ice.

    Mary- The Guelph Lake Nature Centre is on Conservation Drive about 1km from Victoria St in Guelph. It is not far out of the city. It is just an ordinary house but it has good parking available.

    Esther- I imagine you have some interesting birds. I wonder if you have song birds (other than roosters!)? It is lovely to be awakened by birds singing on spring mornings.

    Jayne- You are so right. Looking at your pictures has helped me ID birds a lot better. Now to find a Bluebird!

    Cheryl- The Wood Thrush is bigger than a sparrow and just a bit smaller than a Robin (American Robins are also thrushes)They are not all that uncommon but you don't see them hopping on lawns. You likely saw one. I don't know about that big dog..;-)

  7. What an eye you have. That thrush is so well hidden. Great shots of the Purple finches.

  8. Beautiful pictures of the Purple Finch.

  9. Hi Ruth....oh yes, I can see the woodthrush....thrushes are my most favourite birds, along with owls.
    I so enjoyed seeing yours....

    Purple finches are lovely...I do not think we have anything similar to them...

    You have some lovely shots there.....

  10. I love that purple finch. I've never seen one in person, but now I know what to look for.

  11. Thrushes have the best camoflauge for sratching along in the dappled shade. I'm always very excited when I can spot one.

  12. Anonymous3:34 pm GMT-4

    Beautiful images Ruth, and I too find that rule comes into my life so many times over...

  13. Ruth, what fun. I, too, am waiting for the migrants to return. I have not seen a new bird here in Sycamore Canyon in a long time and I may go searching today or tomorrow to see what's happening!

  14. Anonymous8:08 pm GMT-4

    I agree that birding is so much easier before the leaves fill in the trees.
    Those are beautiful photos of the purple finches. I used to wonder if I could tell the difference between a purple and a house finch, but once seen, there's not a doubt.

  15. Ruth,

    I have my swan photos from Sunday posted. I will be posting the ones from Tuesday tomorrow.

    Hope you're keeping warm. The wind made it a chilly today. We went to Westfield Heritage Village for a pancake and maple syrup lunch. The Village is open every Sunday to the end of March.


  16. Beautiful photos of the purple finch, Ruth. We should have them around here, too. But I've only seen and photographed a female purple finch back in February.


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