The bird version of an old drinking game

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine siskins visit a feeder in Danbury, Connecticut, March 2019.

This post may be stretching it a bit, but what the heck …

During my college years, one of the drinking games we used to play was “One up, one down.” Those who knew the secret would always get the right answer and not have to drink. Those who guessed wrong had to drink. I’ll give away the secret and spoil the game because I doubt a lot of college students are regularly checking in with BirdsofNewEngland.com. Anyway, one player raises both hands, one hand or neither hand. (It’s actually a bit more complicated, but you get the idea.) Another player has to say “one up,” “two up,” or “zero up.” The game only works, obviously, when new people are at the party; otherwise, everyone would always get the right answer.

Well, the reason for that stroll down Memory Lane was that I was reminded of that game while watching pine siskins at my feeder during yesterday’s snowfall. Check out the photos and you’ll see why.

See, I told you it was a stretch.

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine siskins visit a feeder in Danbury, Connecticut, March 2019.
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More snow means more snowy bird photos

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pine siskin perches on the top of an evergreen in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

For the third consecutive day, southern New England was hit by an overnight snowfall. None of the “storms” amounted to much in terms of accumulation but they did create some good bird photography opportunities.

Here are a few to get started. Many more to come …

Photo by Chris Bosak A pine siskin perches on the top of an evergreen in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

For the Birds: The siskins come at last

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine siskins visit a feeder in Danbury, Connecticut, fall 2018.

A wise man once said: “The nature of a winter finch irruption, however, could mean a sizable flock of pine siskins can show up and empty out my Nyjer seed feeder at any moment.”

Just kidding. That was me writing two weeks ago about the hot start to the winter finch season. The wise man part is up for debate.

At the time of that writing, a female purple finch had been my only out-of-the-ordinary sighting at my feeding station. A week later a few fox sparrows showed up. I know fox sparrows are not finches, but they can fit loosely into the category of winter finches because of their sporadic visits to New England backyards.

Then last week, true to the sentence at the top of this column, the pine siskins showed up. It started out with two siskins sharing the tube feeder with a group of goldfinches. The next day, I counted three siskins. The third day, about 20 siskins showed up and occupied every perch on the tube feeder and a nearby hopper feeder. The spillover Continue reading

Pine siskin vs. American goldfinch video

Here is a video I put together on the current pine siskin (fall 2018) irruption. Also a description on how to tell siskins and goldfinches apart. Subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking here.

More and more siskins

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine siskins visit a feeder in Danbury, Connecticut, fall 2018.

It started out as two yesterday morning. Now there are more than 20 pine siskins at my backyard feeding station in Danbury, Conn. That’s often the way it goes with these winter finches: The visits start with a few birds and they multiply and eat the host out of house and home. Not that I’m complaining …

Every perch on the hopper is filled and the rest are on a nearby hopper feeder or on the ground. They are eating Nyjer and sunflower seeds. 

Siskin irruption hits home — finally

Photo by Chris Bosak A pine siskin eats Nyjer seeds at a feeder in Danbury, Conn., fall 2018.

After reading about pine siskins being seen throughout New England for several weeks, I woke up this morning to three of them at my feeding station. Pine siskins are one of the winter finches that irrupt from the north into New England and points south in sporadic winters. (Related post may be found here.)

Pine Siskins are often confused with goldfinches because they look fairly similar and prefer Nyjer (or thistle) seeds. Siskins are a bit larger, more sleek, more streaked and have a longer, pointed bill. The heavy streaking, especially on the sides, and yellow wing and tail markings are the best clues to differentiate the species. The male siskins have more prominent yellow markings. 

So today I celebrate that the siskins have arrived. The birds, however, have a very healthy appetite and Nyjer seed is not cheap, so we’ll see how I feel if their numbers multiply. I’m sure I’ll continue to be inspired by their presence. After all, it’s been about 10 years since I was a part of one of their irruptions. I think I can splurge once a decade on them. 

Here is a photo of them with goldfinches. Note the differences in plumage. The goldfinch is on the lower right. 

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine siskins visit a feeder in Danbury, Connecticut, fall 2018.

Can you spot the difference?

Photo by Chris Bosak American Goldfinches eat from a feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
American Goldfinches eat from a feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches share a Nyjer feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches share a Nyjer feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

What’s the difference between these two photos?

It’s not one of those find 10 subtle differences puzzles, but rather a pretty simple quiz and lesson in paying attention closely to your feeders. These photos were taken about 10 minutes apart the other day at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford, Conn.

The top photo, taken first, shows all American Goldfinches on a feeder offering Nyjer seeds. At first glance the next photo appears to show a bunch of American Goldfinches, too. But there’s more to that seco Continue reading