Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Sunday, January 2, 2022

New Year's Brrrrrrrding!

Black-capped Chickadee

On New Year's Day, at 6:30 am I headed up to my office window with a cup of coffee, wondering who my first bird of 2022 would be; the temperature was -16º and still dropping. It was early twilight when the first bird alighted on my feeder—a chickadee! That means if I were the kind of person who places impossible burdens of expectation on wild birds simply trying to live out their lives in peace, I’d expect a year filled with fun, plenty to pique my curiosity, and warm familial and community bonds. I don’t know that chickadees can possibly fulfill that prophecy about my life—they have plenty enough trouble evading the neighborhood shrike—but I do expect to see them most days in 2022, which guarantees a lot of joy—that’s a plenty good enough New Years prophecy for me.   

Black-capped Chickadee

Less than a minute after the chickadee arrived, so did a junco. It was SO cold and fluffed up! People often think birds are fat in winter when it’s really just their plumage, puffed out the way we loft the down in a sleeping bag or comforter to improve its insulation.   

Dark-eyed Junco at -16º F

A pair of White-breasted Nuthatches showed up next, and then BB, my banded male Pileated Woodpecker, still a few minutes before sunrise. The female came a half hour later and stuck around in my yard pretty much all day. It's such a luxury to see Pileated Woodpeckers virtually every day!   

Pileated Woodpecker

Most of the birds I saw were regulars, but the one New Year’s surprise was Pine Grosbeak—three materialized in my tray feeder while I was downstairs. When I went upstairs to my office for my camera, they disappeared. One returned a while later and didn't flush while I cranked open the window and stuck my camera out, but a split second before I snapped the shutter, the neighborhood Red-bellied Woodpecker flew in and scared it off. Oh, well. I ended New Year’s Day with a respectable 13 species on my 2022 list, all seen from the balmy comfort of my house.   

Sunday morning was marginally warmer, with the coldest temperature -15º at 8 am. A Blue Jay showed up to raise my year list to 14 which, coincidentally, is also the Blue Jay’s number on my life list. About 10:30 am, when Russ and I set out for the Sax-Zim Bog, the temperature had climbed to -1º, though I knew it would drop as we headed north, away from Lake Superior.   

We’d barely turned off Peabody Street when a Bald Eagle flew over, bringing my year list to 15. I figured it would be an easy matter to add five more species so I’d end at a nice, even 20, but thanks to that Red-bellied Woodpecker, my primary goal for the day was to photograph a Pine Grosbeak.   

We saw lots of ravens before we made it to the Welcome Center. And just as I expected, the temperature had dropped to -8º despite the strong sunlight. What we did at the bog wasn’t so much birding as what I’d call brrrrrrding. My little dog Pip was born exactly 7 years ago, and she loves coming along, but this year we ended up celebrating her brrrrrrrrthday.  

Russ and Pip

At the Welcome Center, I fulfilled my goal of getting nice photos of Pine Grosbeak.    

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

I also photographed a new year bird, the Common Redpoll...   

Common Redpoll

...and an iced-up toilet-seat cover in the restroom—yep, we were definitely brrrrrrding!    

Iced-up toilet seat in the bog.

Next we went to the Admiral Road feeding station where a small group of Canada Jays showed up.   

Canada Jay

Some person had left out a whole loaf of white bread at the station. Bread is shunned by most birds and has absolutely no nutritional value, so a birder from Virginia and I gathered it up for disposal. She had brought a jar of peanut butter which she spread here and there in hopes a Boreal Chickadee would show up. I think I saw one when we first got there, but didn’t have a good enough look to count it.  

Russ and I needed to be home by mid-afternoon, so didn’t wait long enough to see a Boreal Chickadee for sure. On Highway 133 on the way out, we did see a distant Northern Shrike, bringing my total to 19. Not quite 20, and overall I didn't get many photos, but I did fulfill my biggest goal, getting Pine Grosbeak pictures, and I had a wonderful time with Russ and Pip, so no matter how I look at it, I started 2022 right, with two lovely days of family and brrrrrrrding.    

Pine Grosbeak