Throughout the Bay of Quinte region, the temperatures are cooling, and the leaves are changing. We are experiencing an array of colours in our forests. But it is not only the leaves that are colourful, as we set up our bird feeders for the winter months we are beginning to see colourful finches as well.
To really get into the Autumn colours at this time of year, I like to drive up into the Oak Hills and visit two of our Conservation Areas.
My first stop is the Sager Conservation Area. A series of steps leads up to a Lookout tower and walking to the top I’m rewarded with a colourful panorama of the land. The colourful oak and maple canopy displays a subtle arrogance, and I’m filled me with a sense of awe. The vibrant colours of the forest roll before me like a herd of green camels that has recently been subjected to the barrage of a finger painting Kindergarten class. Above the horizon, migrating hawks and vultures can be seen rising on warm thermals. In past years I’ve seen the odd Bald eagle soaring overhead. This is the season when they are departing their nesting areas in the north and are coming to the Bay of Quinte region for the winter.
From Sager Conservation Area I travel a few kilometres east towards the Sidney Conservation Area. On the way there, I slow down to pass a pair of horseback riders enjoying the crisp Autumn weather. These horses are quite beautiful creatures, and they remind me of my childhood visits to local farms and wandering around the horse stables. I still enjoy seeing horses, but I no longer consider myself to be a stable genius.
Upon arrival at the Sidney Conservation Area, I take a few moments at the Red Pine and Spruce forest next to the parking lot to listen for Red-breasted nuthatches and Pine Siskins. In some winters, both White-winged Crossbills and Red Crossbills are drawn to the cones of these evergreens, so I plan to make a few more visits this winter to see if they’ve arrived. The gentle trail meanders through an established woodlot whose forest floor is covered by yellow, red and orange Maple and Oak leaves. The subtle rustling of my boots making their way through the leaves contrasts with the squawks of Blue Jays and Crows above.
This winter is predicted to be a colourful “Finch Winter.” A poor tree seed crop in the northern boreal forests this year means some finch species will move south this winter to search for other food sources. Already we are seeing lots of Goldfinches, Purple finches and a few Pine Siskins invading our bird feeders. They should soon be joined by another northern bird species; the tiny, fun-sized Redpoll. The energetic Redpolls tend to bombard bird feeders, preferring Nyger seed. If we are really lucky we should hope to see the real beauties of the north; Pine Grosbeaks and Evening Grosbeaks, who’s bright plumage is truly striking. Keep a watchful eye as well on the fruiting trees in your neighbourhood, as Bohemian Waxwings numbering in the hundreds can swoop in and devour the fruit in no time at all.
Enjoy the Autumn season, and don’t forget to keep your bird feeders filled.
“Tom’s Birding Tip of the Month” — To attract a variety of birds to your feeder this winter, use a variety of food to attract them. Sunflower, Nyger, peanuts and Suet.