That fact of life is not without merit. Yesterday morning, as I took out a pail of kitchen scraps to the compost bin, I heard a curious chirping in the backyard I did not immediately recognize. I ran to my possibilities bag (still packed and sitting in the hallway since the hunting trip) and grabbed my binoculars. Finches with streaky breasts, yellow wing bars and slender, pointed bills - four pine siskins for the yard bird list. Siskins rarely attempt to breed in the high elevation, coniferous forests of the Appalachians. More typically, this northern species is seen during winter, when the population migrates south, as far as northern Mexico. It is one of several irruptive species that, on occasion, invades the southern extent of its range in massive numbers (often estimated in the tens of millions) when the northern seed crop is poor.
In talking to some birding friends up north, I learned that reports are already streaming in that this could be such a year. If so, backyard bird watchers should stock up on thistle and millet to bring the show to their feeders. A pine siskin irruption rarely occurs on its own. The forces sending the little finches our way usually have a similar affect on other boreal species like; purple finches, common redpolls, red and white-winged crossbills, evening grosbeaks, red-breasted nuthatches and (fingers crossed) bohemian waxwings.