One thing that I do appreciate about the cold winter months is that I spend more time indoors in front of the dining room window. I usually set up my laptop on the table there and write for hours, pausing every now and then to watch the birds while working out an idea. There is almost always activity at the feeders and every so often I am rewarded with a sighting of a new bird that I have never seen before. That’s when I get excited, jump up, reach for the camera and watch the new bird(s) for as long as they choose to stick around. Later, I attempt to identity the bird using my Field Guide to Alberta Birds and then pencil in the date and the bird in my birding journal.
Here are some Bohemian Waxwings. They ignore the feeders but love the berries on the Hawthorn tree. I also get Cedar Waxwings coming through to stop for a snack on this tree. These birds fly in large flocks and are power-eaters: they can eat every berry on a large tree in mere minutes.
Next are some Common Redpolls. These are also winter visitors and they travel in large flocks. They are tiny little things, about the size of a chickadee, and the males have the showiest colors while the females tend to be brown. They love the thistle in my finch feeder.
Above is a Chickadee (dee dee). These little creatures are so cheerful and friendly. Last spring, I was cross country skiing and had briefly stopped on the trail. Two little chickadees flew right up close to me and landed on a nearby tree. They kept cocking their little heads and staring at me expectantly so I took off my mitten and reached out to them. One by one they took turns landing on my hand and got an even closer look at me. Then they flew away. It was a magical moment.
Below is a White-breasted Nuthatch. I also see Red-breasted Nuthatches as well. They love the suet and I call them the acrobats because they are the only birds that I’ve seen so far that are as comfortable upside down as they are right-side up.
I’ve seen many other birds that have been too quick to catch on film, including Pileated Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, brown-headed cowbirds, a pheasant, a Northern Saw-Whet Owl and a Great Horned Owl. I also see Blue Jays on the tree quite regularly. Huge ravens fly around but have never visited the feeder or the Hawthorn tree. Once there was six woodpeckers on the tree at one time: four Downy Woodpeckers and two Hairy Woodpeckers. It was a woodpecker convention!
You just never know what you’re going to see out there. Whether you have feeders set up or not, winter is a fantastic time for birding. There are many species that only travel through Alberta at this time of the year. So as you are walking or skiing or even taking a break while snowmobiling, take a look around and find out who is watching you!