Break in an Otherwise Boring Winter
Since the beginning of the year we've had some very cold days (not by more northerly standards, but it's all relative). Temperatures briefly bottomed out at a chilly 18° F, cold enough to freeze our hummingbird feeders and bathroom pipes. For a while I even put on a jacket. I was hoping that the continent-wide blast of arctic air might bring us some interesting birds, maybe even that elusive Purple Finch, but was again disappointed.
So far this has been a particularly dull winter, with no major movement of winter birds. We've had plenty of activity at our feeders since the freeze, but some of our regular winterers are in very low numbers, while others, such as Brown Thrasher, have been completely absent. American Goldfinches arrived a bit late, and American Robins and White-throated Sparrows have been notably scarce. The only species present in above normal numbers has been House Finch, which seems to have increased locally over the last year.
Today was another matter. Thanks to the late Reverend Martin Luther King, I was off work, and got to spend a little time poking around our yard. First surprise was a pair of small ducks that went flashing by, one of which was clearly a male Bufflehead - bird #134 for the yard list. Score! All winter we've had a Selasphorus type hummingbird (most likely Rufous) visiting our feeders. This morning I confirmed that we have at least two Selasphorus types, and a possible Archilochus type.
At about 11 a.m. I was scanning the sky to the east when I spotted a large dark raptor with gleaming white head and tail flying south - Bald Eagle! It was initially under pursuit by a smaller raptor, probably an Osprey, but my attention was fixed on the eagle and I didn't give it much attention. Shortly after the eagle (yard bird #135) disappeared to the southeast I again saw the Osprey, also flying in a southeasterly direction. A pair of cormorants circling to the north were too distant for identification, but one of them had a very white breast, and was probably an immature Double-crested. Highlight of the afternoon was a single White-winged Dove hurrying southward.
Counted a total of 33 species in and around our yard today, not bad for a dreary January.