So after 5 straight days with tempatures spending more time in the negative than positive numbers, the weather is finally starting to ease up today….later today we are actually supposed to hit double-digits. With the sun still setting early during the work week (4:30pm-ish) it’s hard to get any birding in since I normally work until 3:30. The cold weather even made watching the feeders at my house difficult as ice obscured most of the windows.
With no birding time during the week, I was looking forward to Saturday! It was -1 degree (fahrenheit) when I got out this morning. I wanted to get an early start for best viewing conditions since the forecast called for early morning sun giving way to cloudy skies. I pulled into Heckrodt Wetland Reserve just before 9am and was greeted with one of my favorite sites – no cars! That’s one of the benefits of going out in the cold – no one else around. Yes -1 is cold, but if you have the appropriate gear you can stay warm. And lets face it Wisconsinites – if you live in a cold weather state for 4-5 months a year, why wouldn’t you have cold weather gear?
I started at the feeders and picked up year bird #24 – Red-bellied Woodpecker. Not an unusual find – I should see another 100 or so over the course of the year – but a new year bird none the less. Many people are confused by the name considering the birds belly looks completely white. Back when many of the birds were named, birding was done with a shotgun. Ornithologists blasted birds out of the air and then examined them while in their hands. In the hand, the wash of red on a Red-bellied Woodpecker is much more evident, although you can still see a slight tinge of color on many of the birds.
My target bird was again the Eastern Screech Owl, but alas it was strike-two. I decided to continue on and walk the length of the property. Although I didn’t count it, I’m about 80% sure I flushed a Winter Wren from the boardwalk. Didn’t get any view of it in the bins (binoculars), but a small, secretive bird that keeps low to the brush and out of sight at this time of year is a good indicator of a Winter Wren.
Like the title says, it was strike two on the owl, but I’m considering it a tipped ball as I did have a nice consolation prize – a Pileated Woodpecker. Not only a new year bird, but also a Winnebago County bird. Best of all was the views – I spent about 30 minutes watching this bird drill holes and enjoy breakfast. It was hands-down the longest and best views I’ve ever had of this species.
For those unfamiliar with this species, it’s the largest woodpecker in North America (assuming the Ivory-bill is extinct). It’s difficult to empathize just how big this bird is to a non-birder; about the size of a crow and in flight looks like a small Pterodactyl. Quite a treasure to spend nearly 30 minutes watching this species in action!
This week I also finished reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. My Goodreads review and ratings can always be found on the right-hand sidebar. The reason I mention that is because I’m now into Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal. Since this is a book related to birding, and a highly praised one, I’ll be doing a full review upon completion.