"Pine Siskins are the ultimate generalist of finches, feeling at home in both boreal and montane habitats where they feed on conifers, grasses, as well as deciduous trees like alder and birch," said Ryan F. Mandelbaum in a post on finchnetwork.org titled "Irruption Alert: Pine Siskins Are On The Move."
Ryan F. Mandelbaum was posting in response to Tyler Hoar’s Winter Finch Forecast which already had the busy little brown birds on the move in early September.
Mandelbaum posted that due to food or weather some birds make unscheduled migrations or irruption into different areas.
"However, Pine Siskin movement is erratic, and the birds might occur at unexpected times and in unexpected places," he added.
Jeffrey Hall, president of the Bartramian Audubon Society and Seneca Rocks Audubon Society member, weighed in on the finches' movements.
"This was predicted to be a good siskin year. The eastern Canada spruce crop was so-so, which caused some to move south," Hall said in an email last week.
Hall said, "There have been lots and lots of siskins reported -- including from my house. They aren't just stopping here. We saw 14 near my father's house in central West Virginia last week."
He said he has about three dozen that have been hanging around when he emailed some information on Oct. 14.
"PA is near the southern limit of the siskin breeding range so it is a rare breeder in the state most years," Edwards emailed.
On average, larger irruptions occur every two to five years, Edwards added.
"In five of the last 20 years, I have records of them hanging around to June or July," he said,
"So they nest here, at least occasionally, but most years are gone by early to mid-May.
Since they nest in conifers, they may well be around more often than my records show -- there are plenty of conifer stands along the river, creeks, etc., where they could nest unnoticed.
Hall also mentioned the possibility of some siskins nesting here.
"I know someone in Cooperstown who sometimes has them year round, so there is some evidence of an occasional small breeding population locally," Hall said.
Hall said the last really big year for siskins he could recall was 2015.
Hall also provided a preview of the siskin information appearing in a new book, "Birds of Venango County", authored by Gary Edwards. Hall collaborated with Edwards and provided photos for the project.
No siskins were reported during the first Breeding Bird Atlas, but they were found in four areas in the county during the second BBA.
Hall added that siskins have a cool scientific name, Spinus pinus.
However, some users on the Facebook page Birding Pennsylvania had other names for the sassy little finches.
"They arrived two days ago -- at least one hundred. Never saw them in Homer City before. Aggressive little flying stomachs! They chase everything and fight with each other all day," one page member posted last week.
I had posted on October 6 about the number of pine siskins at my feeders. It got hundreds of likes and the post was shared a few times.
Since then the birding page has seen reports of the fast little finches from all over the state. Some folks reported seeing them in Clearfield County, Reading, Honey Brook, Armstrong County and other places.
One user posted about the little birds' boldness.
"They’re very tame and you know you have siskins when you walk up to fill the feeder and they don’t fly away. Other than that, they will eat you out of house and home!," the user wrote.
Others lamented how messy the visitors were and how many droppings they leave behind.
Yet some were thrilled to have the siskins with at least half a dozen reporting that it was their first sighting of the finch.
Meanwhile, the numbers at my feeders have dropped. There were still at least a dozen siskins hanging around last week, but by Saturday all but a few had moved on.
I had noticed that while the siskins were here I saw fewer goldfinches. However, by Saturday the goldies had reclaimed their thistle feeder to themselves and the occasionally downy woodpecker.
I guess that's just the nature of things 'round here.