Monday, February 19, 2018

What do I love?

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of naturethe assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” 

― Rachel Carson

Common Redpoll

For one, I love the raspberry highlights of Common Redpolls. It's amazing to have so many of them in southern Wisconsin this winter. Soon we'll bid them farewell and hope they return next year. Though I will miss them, many feathered sprites will take their place in the budding branches of early spring. The wait will soon be over, but I so enjoy the anticipation of spring migration.

Northern Cardinal

I love the changing morning choir of birdsong. Though spring is still a month away, try telling that to February's cardinals. Their fresh whistles dominate the morning voices along the creek corridor. "Whit-cheer, whit-cheer, whit-cheer!" Despite the drumming of woodpeckers, melodious finch trills, nasally nuthatches, teedling tree sparrows, and scolding titmice, the the cacophony of birdsong never seems disorderly to me. Being able to sort through the layers and pick out individual contributors is one of my most cherished birding abilities―I can still hear the softest calls, whether a Winter Wren or Brown Creeper.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I love connecting bird vocalizations to their behavior. It can only mean one thing when the singing abruptly breaks into chickadee warnings, jay alarms, and then rapid-fire staccato cardinal distress notes: RAPTOR! With their exceptional visual and auditory perceptions, many songbirds manage to find safe cover even before the Cooper's Hawk takes its perch. Some hide in nearby dense brush, while others remain frozen in fear wherever they happen to be. Steady warning calls continue until the danger passes. When the element of surprise fails, the fierce hunter may assess the scene for a moment, but then flies off to try elsewhere.

Cooper's Hawk

Finally, I love it whenever a day of adventure ends in spectacular fashion in the form of a beautiful sunset. With a long hike and enjoyable observations, there's a profound sense of accomplishment, even when there isn't much to show for it. Though its totality exists only in my private thoughts, the elements I share here hopefully provide you with the sense of adoration I have for all things Nature.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Feb 18, 2018 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
30 species

Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Ring-necked Pheasant
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2018 Mike McDowell


  1. Thanks for sharing these beautiful thoughts and photos, as well as the quote from Rachel Carson. Your blog does a wonderful job of illustrating the strength and healing to be found in nature, and the adoration that many of us feel. Having a hearing loss since birth, I am only able to hear a fraction of the avian voices that you describe, and I enjoy your descriptions of what that experience is like.

  2. Generous and great post. So true! Thanks for writing and showing what makes life worth living.