The Bird in the Winter
Winter, as I've said many times, has wonderful advantages of visibility that a birder just doesn't have in the full green leaf of summer. Along with that clear view, another problem is obvious....not as many birds! Apparently, warblers and such are not much for skiing and they leave. They could have stayed this year. With the unseasonably warm weather, the wonderful snow cover is quickly receding, leaving us with the sorry landscape usually seen in March, that cruel month. It has made me almost crabby, visions of extended days of excellent cross country skiing during my break dashed by a warm southerly weather pattern. If I wanted warm winters, I'd live in Texas, not Wisconsin!
Still, I've gone out sans skis a couple times recently, last week in search of the Northern Shrike. He has been reliable along my much-loved Rails to Trails bike trail, and I caught only a quick glimpse of him. The fine fellow pictured here is one I captured late last winter, in that mostly cruel month of March. Though my glimpse was quick, I had much longer looks at two Bald Eagles soaring over the open marshland beyond the trail. Beyond that, I could see the edge of the local mall parking lot, the day before Christmas Eve. As I silently watched those eagles soar for no other reason than the fact that they can, I paused to think of all the last-minute shoppers just beyond...with no idea of this gift that was there for the taking.
Today, my husband and I headed off to the county park where I had my last owl encounter. It was eerily silent today. Even just before dusk, there were only a scant few Chickadees chittering about, and they were making their soft chirping calls, rather than their usual brassy ones. A Belted Kingfisher was seen through the trees, and a couple Downies and White Breasted Nuthatches entertained us, but for the most part, the birds were strangely absent. Trying to call my friend the owl, I had one very distant response. My husband heard it too, but calling yet again, we heard nothing more. Had I been alone, I could have stood and waited for it to find me if it chose, but I was not alone. Though the birding was scarce, time in the woods was abundant, and the sunset over the Mississippi spectacular, so spectacular that despite having a camera in hand, we instead drank in its splendor.
Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps it will be the day I actually get out of bed and try to do some owling. Perhaps not.
Now for this commercial interruption....send along your nominations for "I and the Bird #14,"already being set in type. Make sure you get the chance to be in this edition which, though it will not be the "Weekly World News," should be lots of fun, in a midwestern sort of way! The deadline is January 3 and they can be sent to Mike at 10000 Birds or me.