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Friday, September 25, 2009

Winter Finch Forecast

The White Pine cone crop is HUGE this year in New Hampshire, where we live.

The winter finch forecast is out. Done by Ron Pittaway of the Ontario Field Ornithologists, it focuses on Ontario, but some of it is applicable to the northeast United States.

Basically he says there will be no major finch irruptions outside their normal winter ranges. Winter finches are those finches, such as Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and crossbills, etc. who leave their ranges some years, because of poor food availability, and "irrupt" down into the lower U.S. He says finch numbers will be lower in southern and southeastern Ontario and Quebec and higher in northwestern Ontario, northern Saskatchewan, the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland and northern New England States.

Here in New Hampshire we have a bumper crop of pine cones. We have many White Pines on our property and each is loaded with cones. The hemlocks and spruces on our property also have good cones. He makes predictions for individual finch species, saying:

* Evening Grosbeaks, whose populations are lower now because of outbreaks of spruce budworms, ruining their food in the 1980's, may wander down here.

* Pine Grosbeaks will not move south much because "mountain-ash berry crops are excellent in most of the boreal forest."

*Purple Finches will migrate south out of Ontario. They're a declining species and we are lucky to get them at our feeders each year.

* The type of Red Crossbill (there are different "types" with different bill sizes, who specialize in different cones) that likes pine cones will leave Ontario and northeastern Quebec because of poor White Pine cone crops there.

* White-winged Crossbills will leave Algonquin Park because of low spruce and hemlock crops and go to the Maritime Provinces and northern New England States.

Common Redpoll

* Common and Hoary Redpolls, species that love birch seeds, will leave and head elsewhere, especially westward in the boreal forest.

Pine Siskin

* Pine Siskins, which were huge here last year, may be scarce this year. Evidently they now seem to be in western Canada. It is unclear whether they will return to the Northeast this year.

So if any of you irruptive species are reading this, from those birders in New Hampshire, including us, we say,
"Come on down!!" We have lots of cones for you.

P.S. Ron Pittaway also says this could be a good year to see Northern Goshawks, because of lack of their food of hares, grouse and squirrels. We also may see more Blue Jays who will seek acorns here. Evidently Blue Jays have already been seen migrating in numbers along the north shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, because the nut crops in Ontario have been poor.


MaineBirder said...

Thank you for providing this forecast! I have trying to find it online, without any luck.

Last winter was a great year for irruptives here in Maine!

Lillian Stokes said...

Hi MaineBirder,
We hope NH and Maine will get some great irruptives this year. We need Red Crossbill for our property list!