It’s easy to think that there aren’t many birds left hanging around these cold northern woods by the end of December.
But they’re there, huddled up in their little down coats, making an occasional foray to find some fermented berries or little bugs that have burrowed into rotten tree trunks. Their wiser cousins have headed south, but these guys hang tough, hoping that the energy they’ve saved by not making that long flight will be enough to get them through the winter.
The Pine Grosbeaks manage to find trees full of berries that must be especially tasty after a good hard freeze: they are so intent on eating that they let me get close enough to get a somewhat disconcerting look at their tongues.
The Townsend’s Solitaire hangs around all winter as well, usually singing its long complicated song from the top of a tall spruce. But sometimes all it can do is fluff itself up into a nice warm ball and wait out the cold.
Northern Flickers are generally busy all winter pecking holes in houses or rapping on chimneys. Luckily for us, they like the spruce tree in our yard,
but are particularly fond of the heated water bath we provide. This guy hung out all day, warming his toes in his own personal hot tub.
The Bohemian Waxwings fly in frantic flocks from tree to tree, looking for the same fermented berries that the Pine Grosbeaks like. Once they’ve found a good tree, they eat their fill and then hang out in a contented group for the rest of the day.
Group hangouts seem to be popular, actually. House finches are particularly fond of each other.
Magpies, too, have a predilection for holding loud squawking meetings. They’re particularly happy if they can meet in a tree in a yard with a cat or dog that they can aggravate.
Mallards group up near whatever open water they can find. If there’s a water slide available, so much the better!
And Bald Eagles and Northern Harriers manage to find plenty of voles and rabbits to keep them full and happy all winter long.
Yep, it’s quiet is the winter woods, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s going on.