What natural wonders could possibly await on a cold, foggy winter morning? Who in their right mind would want to go outside in these conditions?
If you do brave the elements at this time of year, it may seem at first as if no birds are present. Instead of birds you might hear sounds ranging from electronic car beeps to the droning of leaf blowers. But wait: settle in, sip your coffee, take a deep breath. Good things happen to those who wait. Waiting and being quiet are not things we are taught in our noisy, busy-body culture but can be therapeutic.
This morning when I ventured out, a Pileated Woodpecker flapped through the mist and perched on a nearby utility pole, its red crest a beacon in the fog. Due to the proximity of our yard to a larger forested area with standing snags, we see these majestic birds often.
Then came a mixed flock of other species: Dark-eyed Juncos, Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees, House Finches accompanied by a few Spotted Towhees and Song Sparrows. Each species has its own way of feeding. The Towhees rake and the Chickadees take one seed at a time from a feeder and fly off to crack the shell and eat it on a nearby tree branch. The mixed flock feeds and vocalizes together, giving warning when a predator like a Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin or house cat comes by.
As I tried to photograph them, two Anna’s Hummingbirds buzzed my left ear. They landed in a small tree and glared at one-another only a foot apart. Then they rocketed off together chattering in urgent squeaky tones before I could snap a shot. So I took one perched on a feeder instead.
In a 20-minute span, 15 species of birds graced our yard with their colors, athleticism, vocal variety and unending curiosity. They are here because we and others before us left ample habitat for them. Having bird feeders and a bird bath also helped “chum them in.”
During this quiet time, the world’s problems fade. Positive thoughts and ideas come to the forefront. Inspiration prevails, cynicism gains no traction. It is true that simple pleasures like these are the best. They are available to all of us. No apps necessary; just your five senses, warm clothes, a warm drink, and a pair of binoculars.
Dec 4, 2017 8:00 AM – 8:20b AM
Comments: Foggy, calm – 38 degrees
15 speciesAnna’s Hummingbird 3
Northern Flicker 2
Pileated Woodpecker 1
American Crow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 4
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 1
European Starling 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Dark-eyed Junco 14
Song Sparrow 1
Spotted Towhee 2
House Finch 2
Pine Siskin 4