A snowy owl surveys downtown Ashland from a rooftop. (Sarah Morris/File photo)

Bird fans are starting to see some favorite winter arrivals around the area over the past couple of weeks. The biggest buzz these days seems to be created by the influx of evening grosbeaks that started moving in around Halloween. They’ve been visiting bird feeders around the South Shore and flocking up in large numbers with American goldfinches, although they don’t seem to be friends with any of mine since I haven’t seen any yet. But folks down in Illinois and Indiana have been more lucky.

This winter is shaping up to be a terrific irruption season, where winter birds move far outside of their usual range. In fact, this winter finch fiesta was predicted in the annual Winter Finch Forecast, which is actually a thing! It’s put out by the Finch Research Network and they predicted a bonanza this year thanks to a boom in the spruce budworm cycle in the boreal forests where winter finches breed. There are so many surplus birds that they have to travel outside of their normal range in winter to find enough food. Evening grosbeaks like sunflower seed on a flat surface like a platform feeder; local avian conservation biologist Ryan Brady also suggests a picnic table, which is a great suggestion for those of us who still have active bears around who might demolish a platform feeder but just tip over a table.

Morris mug

Sarah Morris


Northern travelers including tundra swans, snow buntings and Lapland longspurs like the one seen here have begun their trek through the Bay Area. (Contributed photo by Ómar Runólfsson, Creative Commons)

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