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Category Archives: birds

As the days grow warmer, new birds migrate to the nesting areas and begin setting up their territories, declaring them from tree tops, fence posts and signs. During yesterday’s early morning walk, I heard bluebirds, sparrows, finches and meadowlarks. Owls wake us up at night with their hooting. There is so much to see and hear!

Here is the song of the Western Meadowlark from the Cornell website.

My birthday is the first day of Spring – the Equinox – and I like to celebrate it out in nature. This year the snow lingers most everywhere in our region making hikes or even long walks pretty challenging. So we went down to the big river – the Columbia – where the temperature is more moderate and the snow melts more quickly. Still, there was snow on the ground. Not everywhere so we all were happy to walk or in the dogs’ case, run on ground for a change. And Sky got to jump in the river so all of her wishes came true.

Ken and I watched birds and enjoyed the diversity of species we got to see. Sometimes in winter there are just not many birds around. Spring and migration change all that. We saw over fifty species in a few hours of birding. That includes the birds at home. One of those was a Great Horned Owl that woke me up before dawn, hooting from a snag in our yard. I had hoped to maybe see Sandhill Cranes but it seems that they are put off by all the remaining snow. I imagine when they do head north, they won’t stop here very long since they need to get to their nesting grounds. We did see lots of ducks and geese and swans too.

This winter birders are observing many Varied Thrushes in North Central Washington. These birds are closely related to American Robins – same general size and shape but with some very distinct markings. We counted quite a few on the Christmas Bird Count around Twisp. More than usual although it is an expected species in the winter.

Saturday in Twisp, I noticed lots of them in the crabapple trees in the park. They would fly if I walked but if I stayed in the car I could photograph them for as long as I wanted. The bird with the gray band across its chest is a female and the one with the black band is a male.

American Kestrels are the smallest falcons in North America. This tiny raptor has a wingspan of 22 inches and weighs 4.1 ounces. It eats small mammals, insects and today it ate a finch from our feeder. This bird is a male because of the blue on its wings. It was minus four this morning before the sun came out. Normally this bird has a sleek appearance but it fluffed its feathers in order to keep warm.

Last Sunday we had a good snowfall and I was thankful I’d filled the bird feeders the afternoon before. The finches and juncos appreciated it too. And then, I noticed three Red-winged Blackbirds at the feeders. Oh dear. There have been winters when the blackbirds stayed and didn’t migrate to warmer climates and each day they would empty the feeders in no time. I like blackbirds, especially when they are singing over a cattail marsh in the spring and early summer. But if they are going to be coming to the feeder all winter, I might need to start a fund raiser to buy seeds for them.

The three birds soon left and I figured they would be back with their friends. That’s just the way they are. Well. They had a lot of friends. Soon, there were waves and waves of Red-winged Blackbirds coming up from the valley floor. I estimated at least 250 birds. It was like that old Alfred Hitchcock movie. Every tree, snag and bush in sight of the feeders was covered with them. Some of them got to the feeders but most just stood around or flew around and watched. After a while they all left. Later in the afternoon the big group returned. Since then I’ve only seen smaller groups of blackbirds here. What a relief. Maybe they will just come on snowfall days? I would not have even guessed there were that many Red-winged Blackbirds in this valley at this time of year.

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