Saturday, January 20, 2007

Brown Birds and Blue Ice

(Pheasant Branch stream corridor in winter)

This morning I met Sylvia and Dottie for breakfast at the Prairie Café in Middleton, and then for a little winter birding along the Pheasant Branch Conservancy stream corridor. Though they've both birded the corridor during spring and fall migration countless times, neither has spent much time there during the winter.

(Pheasant Branch stream corridor in summer)

I promised much to see and enjoy, even (or especially) when it's covered with snow and ice – it renders an entirely different impression for the senses to take in. There are 30 or more bird species that spend the winter in the conservancy and we saw a good share of them today. The temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit, so we had to bundle up!

I brought them to where our familiar pair of Great Horned Owls roost during the day. You can certainly tell how thrilled the owls were about our company (zzzzzzzz!). Enjoy the snooze - busy times are ahead and we've greatly enjoyed watching their efforts years past. Here's one of their progeny from last year:

We found a Hermit Thrush that looked as if it would rather be some place else – fluffing up its feathers to retain warmth. It looked almost exactly like this Hermit Thrush picture I took during the winter of 2005, so I didn't bother to photograph it:

Sylvia had to leave early, so Dottie and I continued to walk to the north side of the stream corridor to look for Barred Owls. Alas, none were found. However, we were pretty excited to find a Winter Wren at the end of trail north from the bridge. I pished to bring it out into the open and was met with a serious scolding from the little wren. Once we got a quick glimpse, we turned away to leave it in peace.

I didn't want to bore Dottie while I photographed some amazing ice formations at the last stream crossing, so she headed up the path toward her car. I love the sunlight's illuminating quality through the frozen structures. So many fascinating shapes, patterns and sounds of water rushing against the rocks - it made for a very relaxing finish to a great morning of appreciating nature during winter.

Pheasant Branch Birds – January 20th, 2007:

Canada Goose
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
American Goldfinch

All images © 2007 Mike McDowell

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