Pine Siskins – Rehearsal for Departure?

Yesterday morning I was working outside for a while and noticed the pines getting louder and louder with a congregation of Pine Siskins. Three came to one of the bird baths for a drink, and three or four more perched in some low limbs of an oak, but many more of them seemed to be gathering in the pines. Their chirping and zhrrreeeee calls got louder and louder, until their voices drowned out just about everything else around. But it was not unpleasant – in fact, I’m going to miss that unusual, twanging zhrrreeeee when they’re gone, and probably all the sense of lively activity that they bring, too.

The morning was cool, and the sky had clouded over, turning the daylight gray and pensive. All of a sudden, a flock of Pine Siskins – maybe two or three dozen – rushed out of the pine tops and away, flying north, almost as if they were flinging themselves into the wind – and the pines fell silent. For some reason, the rest of the yard suddenly became quiet, too. The titmice and chickadees deserted the feeders, a Red-bellied Woodpecker flew away, two Juncos, several Robins and a Chipping Sparrow darted up from the ground and into the shrubs.

Was that it? I wondered. Had the Pine Siskins just left us for their homes in the north? No. A few minutes later, there was one lone Pine Siskin singing from the very top of a pecan tree, and not long after that several more returned to flutter all over the feeder in the back yard again. So their morning flight was nothing unusual, I guess. But at the time, it seemed like a preview of their departure, bound to come before too long.

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