I spotted our first yard Junco of the fall at 2:30 this afternoon! It stuck around for several minutes, so I grabbed Aaron’s camera and snapped a for-the-record photo through the back window:
You can tell it’s a Dark-eyed Junco because it’s grayish above and whitish below, and it has a very pale bill (that may look pinkish). Here’s more evidence that it’s a Junco: It flashed its white outer tail feathers a couple of times, but not while I had the camera. Because there’s little contrast between the head and body, it’s just a garden variety Junco (not something exotic to Illinois, like an Oregon Junco). Because it’s a lighter shade of gray with some brownish touches on the back (not a darker slate gray), it’s probably a female.
Other birders have been seeing Juncos in northern Illinois for a few weeks now, but this Junco is the first we’ve seen in Illinois this fall. During 2008 the first Junco arrived on October 17, and then we saw Juncos in our yard almost every day through April 29. That means that we had Juncos in our yard for more than half the year! I guess they’re more than just “winter birds.”
So, I was wondering whether I should feel happy, because the Juncos are back, or sad, because that means that winter is almost here. Obviously, we still have lots of autumn remaining! So, I’ll celebrate the Juncos’ arrival by throwing some seed under the brush pile, where they can feed safe from our neighborhood hawks and cats.