Re: Nuthatches, Chickadees and Sparrows OH MY!

Interesting report. Looks like i missed some big migrant numbers. Brazil was birdy buggy and muggy. On top of that the group caught covid. Nice to be home. Paul

On Wednesday, September 13, 2023 at 05:32:07 PM MDT, Scott Tuthill <satuthill@…> wrote:

Let me follow up on Jay’s post about Chestnut-backed Chickadees up at the Lucky Peak IBO site. For reference I live in the Highlands part of Boise which is north of the Boise North End neighborhood up in the foothills. The elevation of my house is 3,200’ and there are many mature pine and fir trees in the immediate neighborhood. As the crow fly’s I think I am 7 miles from the Lucky Peak IBO site.  I have lived in this house for 30 years and the last few weeks have been totally unique with respect to the same birds Jay mentioned.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are year-round residents. I hear them on a daily basis and they are easily found in the trees and visit my sunflower seed feeder. This time of year their numbers seem swelled based on the “birds of the year” traveling with the parents. It is not uncommon to see 3 or 4 fly into a tree together and explore the trunks and branches before flying off to another. Back in late August I started hearing an unfamiliar vocalization while out doing yard-work. After as much time as I have spent in this house I know the vocalizations of all the regulars. So, to hear something that was not one of them had me intrigued. To me it sounded like an emphatic high pitched “wee-deep”. I was scratching my head to place it. Finally on August 28th I put Merlin to work and it identified the call as Pygmy Nuthatch. This sent me into a scurry. I ran in grabbed my binoculars and after a short while tracked them down as they, at least 3, moved through the tops of some trees in my yard. Definitely a new yard bird. I have heard them off and on since then. Then a few days later my BirdNET-pi system reported and recorded White-breasted Nuthatch. This has happened before, and they turned out to be something else. And, it is a bid I have never seen at the house. But this time when I listened to a couple of recordings – sure enough they were White-breasted Nuthatches. One day the BirdNET-pi screen showed a decode of White-breasted Nuthatches as I was watching it. So I ran out into the yard. I got a quick glance of a bird that might have been one, but I was not positive. And, of course, there were no more vocalizations. So, though I feel highly confident there were White-breasted Nuthatches here, I never saw one. And eBird protocols do not support checklists with birds recorded by audio or video means. So, they have gone unreported there. But, if I do track one down that would complete the nuthatch tri-fecta in my yard. I never thought that would happen.

Moving on to chickadees. Black-capped Chickadees are also year-round residents. I also hear them on a daily basis and they are easily found in the trees and visit my sunflower seed feeder. A couple days ago my BirdNET-pi system reported and recorded Chestnut-backed Chickadee. This was a first in my memory. I listened to the recordings, they were short, and I was not sure. I am not familiar with their vocalizations. So, I passed it off as a decode error. Then I saw Jay’s post from this morning – which made me think I better pay more attention. This morning BirdNET-pi captured four recordings that it identified as Chestnut-backed Chickadees. I listened to them several times, compared them to recordings in the Sibley app, and I feel confident there were Chestnut-Backed Chickadees in my yard. I did not discover the recordings until three hours later and the birds were long gone. They may have only spent a matter of a couple of minutes within BirdNET-pi capture range. But, they were here. Now, I just need to have them come back and get a look at them.

Finally, lets move on to sparrows. One of the fun things about BirdNET-pi is that it is always listening. During the day it is listening. During the night it is listening. If you are watching Netflix, it is listening. The last two nights around 8PM it recorded a couple of sparrow “chip” notes. I feel confident they are from a sparrow. And to me they sound like they are from the same bird and the spectrograms look the same. BirdNET-pi has identified them as both Golden-crowned Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow. Merlin identified them as Golden-crowned Sparrow. I have not listened to them enough and compared them to known recordings to have any idea what they might be. (Though the eBird report of a Golden-crowned Sparrow up at Lucky Peak is an interesting coincidence.) I may never figure this one out – birding is not an exact science. If anyone wants to take a listen to them let me know and I can send the recordings your way.

It’s been a fun late summer for birding that’s for sure.


Scott Tuthill