To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

Winter Birding

During the winter months, the garden is pretty quiet. Many of the plants and flowers are sleeping underground, and most of the trees are bare. I find that the winter months are great time to watch birds in our backyard. They are easier to see among the bare trees, they are frequent feeder visitors, and they add a punch of color to the winter landscape. 

When our oldest son was about four years old, he became fascinated with birds. He and his brother had gone through the train phase and the construction vehicle phase, and Jackson chose to move onto bird watching. Because of his interest in birds, I became pretty good at identifying the ones that came in our backyard. He amassed quite the collection of bird identification books, even ones that had recordings of the sounds different birds would make. As a teenager, he may have moved on from his bird interest, but I haven't. I keep one of his ID books (with his permission of course!) by my kitchen window, so I can look up any birds I do not recognize. This particular book has become my favorite. It is specific to the region we live in. As you can tell, it has been well used. 

Here are a few snapshots of the birds we find at our feeders. Among the cute little Juncos and the cheeky Black-Capped Chickadees, I will sometimes catch these little guys. These are Townsend's Warblers. I love the flashes of yellow they bring to the feeders.

Downy Woodpeckers are very common at the suet feeder. We have some large trees on the property behind our home, and I imagine these little woodpeckers have found a cavity in a dead limb of a tree to call their home.

The Varied Thrush is a beautiful bird. This one in the photo has more muted coloring, so I believe this is a female. The males are a very vibrant orange and dark gray. We typically only see them in the winter and very early spring. I have read that they breed higher up in the mountains in the summer months. I see them often under the feeders or scratching for insects at the leaf piles under a nearby Hydrangea bush.

These two cracked me up. The Northern Flicker, a frequent flyer at the suet feeder, waited somewhat patiently for the squirrel to finish up eating so he could have his turn. The Flickers are beautiful, big birds, and I love seeing them at the feeders. They always catch my eye and cause me to stop and watch them.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we see two different Hummingbirds, the Anna's Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummingbird. The Rufous migrates south for the winter, but the Anna's stay around here throughout the season. These guys are constantly talking to each other with their little chipping sounds. They get very chatty when their feeder is empty or frozen! I found this Anna's Hummingbird on our front deck this week. I think it was trying to save up some energy, since we were having a bit of a cold snap that day. He flitted off to the nearby Douglas Fir a couple minutes after I took this photo.

This is just a snapshot of the bird life we have in our backyard. I imagine you see many birds in your own neighborhood as well! I hope this has encouraged you to look out your windows and see who visits your garden in the winter. If it has, the National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a fantastic event coming up this month that is perfect for bird watchers of ALL levels, and you might be interested in it! It is called the Great Backyard Birdwatch, and it happens in the middle of February every year. Our family has participated for a number of years. It's really quite simple. You record the birds that you see in a given time period on the GBBC's's as easy as that. You can spend 15 minutes or 5 hours, it's up to you. The site has some great tools for helping you identify birds as well. All of the bird sightings are used to monitor winter bird populations here in North America. You can go to the Audubon's page to learn more about the 2019 Great Backyard Bird Count.

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