Were you paying attention when the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in the World Series on Wednesday night?

The Baltimore Orioles were done a few weeks ago. So much for the birds. Perhaps they've migrated by now to warmer climates where they will spend the winter months warming up for the next baseball season. It was an exciting game that went into overtime between two teams that had not held the winning title for several decades.

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In the end, the Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908. That is more than 100 years!

Now we can focus on our feathered friends again. I attended the meeting of the Carroll County Bird Club that met this past Wednesday evening at the Carroll County Non-Profit Center in Westminster.

There were several reports of purple finches and red-breasted nuthatches that have been visiting bird feeders in our neighborhoods, and some folks have reported the return of juncos and white-throated sparrows — two species that will spend the winter months with us.

Purple finches are often confused with house finches, but the distinctive coloring of the males makes them easy to identify. House finches are year-round residents in our region and can be, in my opinion, classified as one of the species referred to as "little brown jobs," a phrase often used to describe sparrows and other species streaked in brown.

Purple finches do not breed in our area but often pass through our region as they migrate between their breeding and wintering territories.

Roger Tory Peterson described them best when he said they looked like "a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice." Indeed, the male purple finch looks like it has been washed with a pink-red dye over its head and back that blends with streaks of brown. The female purple finch has no red, raspberry, or purple on it. Instead, it is a streaky brown bird that wears a distinctive white eye stripe.

It is unusual to see red-breasted nuthatches in our area so early in the season. These little birds are cousins to the white-breasted nuthatches that live with us throughout the year. Both species are small, agile birds with longish bills and short tails. They move about in trees like acrobats climbing up, down, and every which way as they forage for insects.

Our white-breasted nuthatches are gray-blue on their backs, and their faces and underparts are white. They wear a black cap that covers the neck.

The red-breasted nuthatch is a smaller bird, distinctive in appearance, that is blue-gray on its back and white on its throat. It wears a black cap and has a black eye stripe and a white stripe over the eye. It is the only nuthatch that wears an eye stripe. The underparts are a warm rusty-red.

The red-breasted nuthatch breeds in northern regions and usually winters in these same areas. However, when the food supply in these areas becomes diminished in cold weather, these birds will move further south, and into our region, in search of available food sources.

I'm hoping that the early arrival of red-breasted nuthatches this fall is not a forecast for an unusually bitter, cold winter in Maryland.

Has anyone looked at the famous Farmers' Almanac to see what winter weather might be awaiting us?

410-857-7896

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