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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Jan 13, 2011

Winter's awesome surprises

little forest in winter
I must confess that I am not very fond of winter.  That is the first thing that I learned when I arrived in Canada way back when.  The country that I come from has relatively mild weather, with the temperature never dipping much below the minus mark.  Snowfall was rare.

But I also learned that staying indoors for months at a time is not conducive to my well being and so on those days when it isn't too cold, I do go for walks.  We've had a fairly mild winter compared to most this year.  So I headed out when I heard Owl calls in the neighborhood last week, for the first time ever with the express purpose of doing some birdwatching.  I decided to go to the little forest just down the road from my house, since it was the only place I could think of that the Owl might be roosting.

Mountain ash berries

As I  may have mentioned,  I do not see very many birds in winter, mainly because I don't look for them when I'm bundled up against the cold and also because I typically see the same species of sparrow and chickadee almost all the time.  So I was caught totally by surprise by the number of birds I did see.  Starting with this little flock above me in the sky, in  the picture just below.

Flock of birds

It isn't that I didn't expect to see birds at all that surprised me so much as the variety of birds that I saw.  In the hour or so that I spent in the little forest I saw at least six species of birds, and there was no doubt more that I missed because I didn't stay longer.  I was absolutely delighted by that fact of course, and amazed by the sheer advantages that winter provided me in terms of sight.  There are, after all, far fewer places for birds to conceal themselves and their color stands out more against the snow and winter sky.

White breasted nuthatch

I think that at least one of the species was new to me, but I will have to do some careful research to be sure.

Birds in the tree top
A splash of red
Little Red-head

I admit that I wasn't truly prepared for this outing, as you can no doubt tell by the quality of these pictures.  I didn't take my good camera out for one thing, since I haven't figured out how to protect my equipment from the cold and damp, or how to keep the camera lens from fogging up, and I really didn't expect to see much in the way of birds aside from chickadees and the owl that I was hoping to see.  Although, unfortunately, I never did see the Owl.

The most delightful surprise of this outing, however, was this little Merlin just below.  I was, until now, unaware that Merlin's do not migrate and so again I will have to do a little research to learn more about this species of falcon.  This is of course never a bad thing, since I do enjoy learning new things especially when they involve birds and wildlife.

Small hawk

Looking up at a Merlin

Of course, as I am not always totally oblivious to birds in winter, I have seen Prairie Hawks during the season and this past November in the midst of our first snowfall, in the middle of the month, I also saw a Harlan's Hawk, a sub-species of Red-tail, flying overhead.  A late migrant no doubt, I thought at the time.

In any case, needless to say, since my winter outing turned out to be such an awesome surprise, and very rewarding, I will be heading out more often.  Well, as soon as this current cold snap we are experiencing is over anyway.  This bird watch has made me realize that I have definitely been limiting my birdwatching experiences by confining myself indoors in winter. After all, who knows just what I might discover.



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