Monday, February 24, 2014

A rare 'Rusty'

We'll start off by saying that winter seems to have made a comeback with snow and below zero temperatures....when we drove to Chilliwack yesterday it was reminiscent of driving on the prairies with snow coming at you horizontally and drifts across the highways.  

It was after we were home again when I glanced out at one of the feeders and did a double take...

it was O.M.G. a Rusty Blackbird!  This is a species that it would be rare to see here at any time of the year, let alone in the winter.  They normally winter in the south eastern part of the states.  They are also a species that has had a dramatic decline with an estimate of 80% of the population being lost in the last 40 years.  

Here he is shown with his cousin, a Red-wing Blackbird.  Rusty's are quite a shy bird as blackbirds go and prefer wooded swamps.  It is thought that the loss of these in the northern boreal forests where it nests and the draining of marshes for urban development in its southern wintering grounds have led to it's decline.

Since posting photos on various bird sites I belong too I have found that someone in Kingston Ontario has had one over wintering, theirs seems to hang out with Mourning Doves, and someone else just outside Edmonton has a pair over wintering.  For us here, this sighting brings the number of species I've documented at this I.B.A. to 179.

Here is one more look at this rarity...this is a male in non-breeding plumage.  In summer they look almost identical to Brewer's Blackbirds - the ones you can see strutting around in the Abbotsford Costco parking lot.  Rusty's just aren't quite as shiny as the brewers.

Also seen yesterday....

this male Purple Finch.  Finch of every kind have been notable by their absence in these parts this winter, this guy is probably a sign that spring is on it's way although not for a few days yet judging by the snow drifting down and the temperature!

and Varied Thrush continue to be seen in high much so that when I enter a count I get questioned to make sure I haven't made a mistake.

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