Sunday, November 11, 2018

Behold! Sunlight!

"The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools."

― Henry Beston

November's nip and winds have rendered leafless tress and golden fields. Spring and summer are gone, but each season has a sense of its own perfection that makes a nature walk something more than traveling from point A to point B. Sparrow migration is well past peak and American Tree Sparrows have taken up residence in various prairies near my home. There are a few lingering Fox Sparrows and Song Sparrows, but most have journeyed on to wintering grounds further south. This weekend's weather was pretty chilly, but the sun came out for part of the day on Sunday. As I write, the clouds have moved in once again.

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

All the prairies players are hungry and tree sparrows need to be alert for Northern Shrikes! I've spotted a few shrikes so far this fall. My first I heard calling from the prairie adjacent to Vortex Optics as I was out showing rangefinders to a customer. I haven't looked for them at Pheasant Branch dog park, but Gail Smith found one at Governor Nelson State Park a week or so ago. There are also shrike reports from Dorn Creek, but I've never explored that particular tract of habitat. They'll be with us through most of March, so there's plenty of time for portrait attempts.

Northern Shrike

Song Sparrow

Sparrow migration seemed a bit down this fall and I confirmed this by looking at eBird graphs of eight different species. In terms of frequency, Song Sparrows were about normal, but there was fewer of everything else. I don't think there are fewer birds; I believe they took advantage of strong northwest winds in early October and got as far south as they could.

Fox Sparrow

Hints from turbulent water in the form of fascinating ice structures ...

Sort of look like feet!

Naturally layered oak leaves ...

A large flock of Cedar Waxwings have been present around the Deer Creek area for the past few weeks. It was a flock like this one that included a couple of Bohemian Waxwings several years back, so I was inspecting the birds carefully. No such luck today, but I'll be checking in on them throughout the winter season.

Cedar Waxwing

Looking at an airplane.

That's a full crop!

A junco pauses ...

Dark-eyed Junco

It's been a busy month at work and I'm not sure how much time I'll have for birding, photography, and blogging. Poor weekend weather has further dampened my nature pursuits, but I'll seize opportunities as they present themselves. As everyone who reads this blog knows, I have an innate urge to be a witness to phenological changes; whether it's birds, plants, or bugs, carrying a camera is simply a part of my nature.

All images © 2018 Mike McDowell

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