Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter birds

I have no luck with winter birds. I have yet to see a snow bunting, Lapland longspur or pine siskin. Visiting owls, winter finches, redpolls, crossbills: all are safe from being seen by me. Last year I had a theory; my lack of winter bird sightings was because I don't like to go out in the winter. So I went out, no matter the weather, risking frostbite, hypothermia, and death from listening to Sunwiggy whining about the cold.

Was I rewarded by a slew of winter bird sightings? No. My Bird Journal reveals a consistent pattern: 15-20 species per outing, and all of them a variation of: American goldfinch, house finch, white and red-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadee, American crow, northern cardinal, downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, American tree sparrow, dark-eyed junco, mourning dove, house sparrow, brown-headed cowbird, Canada goose, European starling, blue jay, tufted titmouse. Wondrous as all of these species are to see, the monotony of it for week after week became a bit tiring. Still, I had a project, to witness and document the full panorama of McLean County birding in every month and season.

I have been reviewing my notes from last winter, and just in time. At the moment central Illinois is experiencing its first snap of cold weather of the season. This morning, I wheeled my bike out to go to work, and was immediately slapped silly by an Arctic blast of wind. I decided to go back inside for more winter gear (luckily a fit of knitting a couple years ago has supplied me with a variety of hats, scarves, cowls, etc.), which gave the wind an opportunity to knock my bike over. Having added another couple of layers, I hoisted my bike back up and took off...fighting valiantly to make headway into the wind. I mean, I understand I'm no Lance Armstrong, but with all my bike riding over the past few months shouldn't I be in better shape??

On the way to work, my bird sightings have consisted of: large flocks of starlings; pigeons; crows (this morning they were poking holes in trash bags looking for goodies); and Canada geese. Oh, the curse of winter birding!

So, this winter will I persevere in my quest for the Lapland longspur and the snow bunting, and all their wintry friends? Or will I stay nice and warm inside as much as possible? I'd like to think I'll be going out.... (I've signed up to go to the Sax Zim Bog birding festival in northern Minnesota in February, so hopefully I can break my winter bird curse then!) In the meantime, I've been looking over some winter snaps from the past couple of years.... Hopefully they will inspire me. (We don't have snow yet...these are from last January at Starved Rock State Park.)


  1. The whining winter wonder? Who, moi? Some of us would be delighted to see 15 or 20 birds right about now! I'm lucky to see 6! Still...the Sax Zim Bog festival may break the winter curse for both of us. Sorry about winter biking, but the photos are great. Mom