Distracted by the Birds

I made it out for a few hours on Saturday since the forecast for Sunday called for highs around 10 degrees, 1-3″ of snow and a howling wind. The weather on Sunday didn’t disappoint – not that I needed an excuse, but I used it to stay inside with some tea, a book, and the occasional nap. The weekend brought two new year birds and two new yard birds – a flyover Bald Eagle on Sunday and well, keep reading for the others….

Saturday I started at Jefferson Park where Nancy and Michael had two Tundra Swans earlier in the week. Both were present – new year bird #44. For those not experienced with these swans, Tundra Swans can be tough to distinguish from Trumpeters. Thankfully David Sibley put together a nice article which should make a correct ID much easier: Distinguishing Trumpeter and Tundra Swans

Tundra Swan - Jefferson Park, Menasha. Notice the round shape to the head and the way the eye is easily distinguishable from the black bill.
Tundra Swan – Jefferson Park, Menasha. Notice the round shape to the head and the way the eye is easily distinguishable from the black bill.

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I headed over to the Neenah YMCA and although there was nothing new there to report, I did get to spend some quality time with the beautiful male Hooded Merganser below:

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser
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Hooded Merganser with female Common Merganser in front.

Click on an image below to view the gallery:

On my way home I checked a local berry tree I’ve been keeping an eye on all winter. Like many fruit trees this winter it was loaded with berries and no birds insight – until Saturday that is when I picked up my first of the year American Robin. A small flock of five robins were actively feeding.

A lot of people think robins migrate out of Wisconsin for the winter and while some do, others actually stay throughout the winter, provided their is food available. It’s interesting to note that during winter robins form nomadic flocks which can number into the thousands. They’ll roam together from food source to food source. Once spring rolls around, these once nonterritorial birds breakup and start defending individual territories in order to attract a mate, breed, and raise their young.

American Robin
American Robin

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Not a bad morning out, but there was still one surprise left. As I was eating lunch I noticed a bird on my hopper feeder that didn’t quite look right – and by “right” I mean, not one of the usual suspects. I grabbed my bins and sure enough it was a female Common Redpoll – a new yard bird! I got some great looks at it, but after I grabbed the camera I had once chance for a photo before it flew. Unfortunately, through the house windows my camera zoomed on the pine in the background and an unfocused bird!

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What do you mean that’s not a Common Redpoll – of course it is. And how about that beautiful spruce in the background?

I grabbed my coat and ran outside to try and get some photos, but alas, the little bugger got spooked and I haven’t seen her since. Later that afternoon with the redpoll still on my mind I started a draft for this post:

“and then the next 2-3 hours are shot. I might not be starring out the windows the entire time, but every few minutes I turn from a book or movie streaming on my laptop and my mind wanders. Sometimes it’s the flash of another bird – a House Sparrow, dove, Goldfinch – my attention quickly returns to the feeders and I’m enraptured with the hopes of catching her at my feeders again. Part of me wants to get a good photo of her, but mainly I hope she becomes a regular visitor so I can spend some time getting to know this species. Even as I write this I’m turning every few words to see if she’s returned.”

Did I ever mention birding is like an addiction? Although it was only one day, redpolls are uncommon enough in my area that I’ll always remember this new yard bird. And since redpolls only come down in winter, and not every winter mind you, seeing one in my yard has made my winter yard birding.

Bird It Up!


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