Well, whatever it was, it seems to have disappeared this year. I've had House Finches residing in the yard all year long. Recently, when we head out on our morning walk early in the day, there are almost always 4 - 6 of the birds at my front yard feeder. They seem to prefer to visit the feeders early in the morning.
I took this picture of two of the birds today as they shared the feeder with a female Northern Cardinal.
The scruffy condition of both the finches and the cardinal indicates that they are still in the middle of their molt. In a few weeks, they will be sleek, colorful, and beautiful, with every feather in place once again.
There have been numerous reports of finches suffering from avian pox in the area this summer, but, so far, the birds in my yard appear to have escaped the dreadful disease.
House Finches were originally birds of the southwestern United States, but in 1940, some birds that had been illegally obtained for the caged bird trade were released into the wild in New York when the owners feared they would be found out and prosecuted. The adaptable birds survived in the wild and prospered in the East. Today, finches are resident in all of the lower 48 states. It is likely that the birds might have finally reached all those states on their own, as a result of natural migratory wanderings, but the fact is, they did get a major assist from human greed in colonizing new territories.
They are welcome visitors most everywhere they go. Their cheery songs make a joyful noise in the yard. The only potential down side to their expanding range is that in some places they are in competition with their cousins, the Purple Finches, which have been declining in recent years, possibly at least partly because of their territorial disputes with House Finches.
In my yard at least, they are not in competition with Purple Finches, although I do occasionally get a wandering Purple Finch in the yard in winter. Here, the House Finches are a wonderful addition to the avian population of my yard. It always makes me smile to see them.