I'm not getting as many birds to the various feeders in the small garden this winter as I have in the past. Perhaps it is the fact that the winter so far has not been particularly cold, the nearby crepe myrtles and hollies are full of berries and much more appealing than my feeders and that my patio has become sort of a way station for the neighborhood cats (which causes me to run out the sliding class door, hissing at them as they scramble over the back fence). Whatever the reason, it is somewhat discouraging to look at the feeders bereft of the birds I've had in the past.
But recently I've had groups of this little bird show up at the thistle feeder - a bird I haven't ever had come to the small garden in the 10 winters I've lived here.
This is a Pine Siskin, a small finch from who lives in the very far northern forests of Canada during the summer breeding season. Not a regular visitor to the Southeast US, every few years there is what biologists call an irruption which brings large groups south. From what I can gather, irruptions are brought about by the state of pine cone crops, not by natural migration patterns. But in my small garden, it is the thistle feeder which attracts them since there are no pine trees any where nearby.