Pine SiskinPine siskins are common but highly social and gregarious birds that are enjoyable to watch while camping as they search for food around the campsite.
Sharie and I enjoy camping year-round in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. It straddles the Saskatchewan/Alberta border. In 2000, Fort Walsh was formally added to the park. There are entrances, information centres, and campgrounds in each province.
The primitive gap-road joins the Saskatchewan and Alberta blocks. Our four-wheel-drive Jeep enables us to use this road, except during wet spells. We check with staff at the administration offices for current conditions.
Last summer we camped for a week on Ferguson Hill in the Alberta block. This wild unserviced site is one of our favourites. Deer strolled through our campsite. We shared the forest with red squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys and many other birds. The park is home to over 200 species of birds and about 50 mammals. Amphibians and reptiles have also been long-term residents.
If plants are your passion, every moment will be filled with discovery and wonder. The park is home to 18 species of orchids and hundreds of other flowers and plants. Checklists for plants and animals can be downloaded at www.cypresshills.com, just click on “Visitor Information.”
We shared quiet moments at our campsite with a flock of gregarious pine siskin. They introduced themselves with boisterous twittering and buzzing sounds. We were clearly in their territory, not ours! After deciding we were not a threat, the flock settled back into foraging for food.
They moved in unison, like a school of fish. One moment they were in the grass; in the blink of an eye, the flock sought refuge in the tall pines.
Pine siskin eat a variety of small seeds, buds, and insects. Photographing them was challenging as they foraged in the trees and on the ground. Whenever they stepped into a sunbeam, we attempted to capture the fleeting moment.
These birds are monogamous and semi-colonial. Nests are often built on conifer branches using twigs, moss and bark. Females incubate three to five eggs for about 15 days. Both parents feed the hatchlings and continue to do so for several weeks.
Variations in the coloration of pine siskin are common. Identifying ages and genders can be difficult. An understanding of terminology used by ornithologists is helpful. The Migration Research Foundation website www.migrationresearch.org is a wonderful resource. The site’s “Introduction to Terminology and Techniques” unlocks the full potential of popular field guides.
Spending time in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park always restores our appreciation of life.
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