Pine Siskin

Pine siskins (Spinus pinus) don’t often appear in urban gardens, so I was a little bit surprised when I looked out of our kitchen window and saw the tubular nyjer feeder, that hangs in our side-yard almost empty. I had filled it only the day before and couldn’t quite figure out why now it was badly in need of a refill. But I was not long in finding out.
When I  looked  at the same type feeder, which hangs  in the  back yard opposite our breakfast-nook window, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. There were dozens and dozens of them. They were clinging to each and every perch of this, near-empty nyjer seed feeder also. The little cut-leaf sumac, which gives privacy to our deck, was literally inundated with them. There were at least a dozen or more hopping about on the floating leaves of the water lilies in the fish pond, and  they showed  no  hesitation in dipping their bill to quench their thirst.
At first glance, I thought them to be a flock of goldfinch, in their winter plumage, though similar in colour  they appeared to be just slightly smaller, and their  plumage was evenly striped.  When I went outside to check them out, they seemed not to fear me. I was within arms length of the feeder before any took flight, and then it was all or none. The flock rose in unison, as though one bird, and each and everyone disappeared, chirping, sounding much like the goldfinch, over the rooftop of the house.
When I went around the house to refill that feeder too, they were all busy giving the white cedar hedge, which borders our western side-yard, a good grooming. The hedge looked alive with them. I would guesstimate that there were well over a hundred. When I moved slowly towards them, they simply kept right on doing what they were doing. They seemed  to sense no fear on my part.
The moment I stepped back from refilling the feeder they immediately swarmed it. Though unlike most other birds, they did not quarrel or bicker as to who went first; they simple perched nearby and waited their turn. Perhaps there is a lesson that we humans can learn from them.
The pine siskin breeds from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It feeds principally on the seeds of white cedar, tamarack, and the various pines and spruces. I strongly suspect that there has been a coniferous seed crop failure up north that has brought this flock south this early in the season. I  have certainly enjoyed seeing this large flock of active tiny birds.
Speaking of flock, I hope each and every one of you will flock down to Roxanne’s Reflections, the Book and Card Shop on the south side of St. Andrews Street west in Fergus, and ask for my new book, The Best of Bits and Pieces Book One. If you want it signed, pop in on Nov. 10, I’ll be there from 10am to 3pm to do just that. See you all there.
In the meantime, I am kept busy hammering out the contents of Book Two, which may or may not be ready for Christmas. This will be followed by three, four, five and more. I think you will find each and every one of them more than interesting.
Take care, ‘cause we care

Barrie Hopkins