Birds must hibernate, said the naturalist and ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle when he saw masses of birds disappearing each winter. Centuries later we have advanced enough to know that birds do not overwinter beneath swamps and earthen valleys, waiting for the spring thaw. They migrate, of course.
Still, sometimes it can seem as if all the birds must be tucked away in a warm winter hideout, far from view. That has been the case lately. Spare movement among the trees in nearby woodlands and sparse scatterings of ducks on local ponds, lakes, and rivers are making me wonder how on earth I could have lasted 80 days in last year’s Bird-A-Day Challenge.
A friend sympathized: “Last year was easier because the snow and cold here in the Northeast made the birds congregate, providing more opportunities to see them.”
So there you have it. That must be the reason that I’m finding this so tough. But then again, I’m also bound mostly to the birds that I can see on a commute from the suburbs to New York City and on weekend visits to nearby birding destinations.
Fortunately, while the scavenger hunt might be a bit more challenging this year, it is still fun. Those weekend forays looking for birds have taken me more than twice to coastal Connecticut where some of the nation’s wealthiest gather on pleasant winter days to fly kites on the beach and sip hot cocoa. Somewhere off that beach is a razorbill, I’m told, and I’m bound and determined to see it—maybe even this weekend.
Today was one of those days when it was almost too cold and windy to brave the outdoors for long. For a while, I thought the tufted titmouse at my feeder was going to be the best I’d see all day. But then, there it was: a northern harrier out over the grasslands—no doubt hunting rodents huddled close to the ground, bracing from the cold and a menacing shadow overhead.
Add one more to the list.
New Year’s Day: Red-Throated Loon?
Day 2: Greater Scaup?
3: Common Merganser?
4: Black Duck?
5: Red-shouldered Hawk?
7: Northern Gannet
8: Lesser Scaup
9: Red-bellied Woodpecker
11: Fish Crow
12: Hooded Merganser
13: Northern Harrier