The forecast is …

… for early killdeers, a strong turkey-vulture front and a scattering of sparrows.
What, you thought I was talking about a snowstorm?
No, indeed. I’m looking at “birdcast,” a collaboration of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s actually related to the weather, because it uses weather patterns to give a hint of what might be expected in the way of spring bird migration.
It’s posted on the Internet sporadically, as conditions warrant.
Here’s an excerpt from the most recent post I found, from Friday:
“Many hawks are on the move already in late February and March, and with conditions like these, the Great Lakes hawkwatches (e.g., Hawk Ridge … Braddock Bay, Derby Hill and others) are apt to do quite well, depending on the daytime winds at each site. Many rough-legged hawks (and possibly a few snowy owls) will use this weather to move northward, along with golden and bald eagles and red-tailed hawks. Northern goshawks could be on the move through the Great Lakes region.”
Keep in mind, this was an overview published on Friday. It’s safe to say that if the expected snowstorm materializes over the next 24 hours in the Northland, all birds in this region will be staying put.
The link to birdcast? It’s here:

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Can you count …

… the redpolls in this picture?

I took it this morning from inside my house looking out to my deck, and the redpolls here are only a portion of the biggest swarm I’ve had so far this season. I didn’t try to count the whole flock, but there had to have been at least two dozen. I stood outside for a while trying to get a better picture, but they were skittish and I was cold.

On another subject, Joel Willman says he saw a snowy owl by Menards in Superior a couple of weeks ago. It pounced on something, maybe a mouse, and as Joel watched he noticed the owl had a green-and-white tag on its right wing, about 3 inches square, with the number 60 on it. Joel would like to report his finding to whomever might have tagged the owl, but he doesn’t know who that would be. “I would just like to let the researchers who tagged the bird to know where it was,” Joel writes. “Seeing that they are traveling so much this year it would be neat to know where it was tagged.”
Can anyone offer a suggestion?

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Searching for seeds

Bob King aka Astro Bob, aka chief photographer for the Duluth News Tribune, shared pictures he took in Lakewood Township of common redpolls and a pine siskin or two:

A siskin, all cleared for takeoff.

A redpoll in repose.

And my favorite … can you count the redpoll(s) and/or pine siskin(s) in this picture? Bob tells me the flowers are cone flowers and black-eyed Susans.
Speaking of common redpolls and pine siskins, both made my Great Backyard Bird Count. On Sunday afternoon, I spotted 10 redpolls; and I counted 13 on Monday morning. Each day, I counted one pine siskin.
Other birds that I counted, all in small numbers: chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jay, starling, rock dove (pigeon) and house sparrows.
And the birds I didn’t count: two juncos visited my deck, but not while I was counting. And a male cardinal loudly proclaimed its territorial claims from high up in a tree in front of my house on Sunday morning. I wasn’t counting then, either.

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Keep on counting

The Great Backyard Bird Count is off to an appropriately great start, according to the bird count folks. There’s an update here:
Suzanne, who lives in the Woodland neighborhood of Duluth, submitted one checklist after watching the backyard birds around lunchtime on Friday. At her place, the pine siskins were in the midst of a feeding frenzy, she says, but she also has had recent redpolls and a female cardinal. The siskins have about chased the chickadees away, and she hasn’t seen a junco yet this year.
Suzanne says she’s going to try to do another checklist before the end of the day on Monday, when the annual bird count ends.
If you’d like to pass along your findings, please send them to me at:

Time to tally your backyard birds

It’s time for the Great Backyard Bird Count. You participate simply by spending some time looking out your window and counting the number of birds you see. You fill out a checklist and enter it online, indicating the number of species and birds you’ve seen. (I’m guessing there will be a lot of common redpolls on my list.) Tens of thousands of other people across the country, from serious birders to wannabes, will be doing the same thing. The bird count runs from this Friday through Monday, Feb. 17-20.
To learn everything you know and get started, go here:
If you participate and don’t mind taking one more step, send me a note about what you counted at this address:

Raptor out the window

Karl Riggle of Zanesville, Ohio, forwarded to me this picture his niece took of a raptor in Dublin, Ohio, which is near Columbus. His niece thought it could be an eagle, but Karl think it’s a young hawk. My guess is red-tailed hawk, not necessarily young. Any raptor watchers want to settle that for us?
Whatever it is, it looks to me as if it was perched on a deck just outside a window, which would be quite a sight to see.
Here’s the picture:

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Redpolls, a cardinal and a surprise

I was home with a cold on Friday. I don’t care for the cold part, but I don’t mind being home … and especially on a day when the birds are active.
In addition to the usual chickadees, starlings and pigeons, a couple of white-breasted nuthatches checked out the suet log and a couple of bluejays drank from the birdbath. A male and a female cardinal were munching on safflower all day. Here’s a glimpse of the male:

And about a dozen redpolls were almost constantly visiting the nyjer feeders. Here’s a look at the male cardinal and some redpolls; I counted four of them in this frame:

It has been three winters since I’ve had any redpolls at my feeders. Once they come, they tend to stay around … until one day they suddenly disappear. That will mean they’ve headed up to their summer home in the Arctic.
There may have been a few pine siskins in the mix. And I didn’t realize it until I was editing the pictures just now, but there was at least one goldfinch as well:

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Snow(y) on a fence

Camille LeBrasseur of Sawyer, Minn., saw a snowy owl sitting on a fence near her house in the fading sunlight around 4:15 p.m. on Jan. 5. She shared this gorgeous picture:

“My kids and I watched it for about 15 minutes,” Camille writes. “So beautiful!”
Indeed. I can’t add anything to that.

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Sunday on Park Point

Lyle Anderson shared pictures he took near his home on Park Point around noon on Sunday. Here goes:

We start with an eagle’s nest …

… And here’s the bald eagle, nearby. Lyle said he was at least 500 feet away, giving the eagles their space. He used strong lenses to get close.

And ubiquitous mallards in a yard that Lyle says is one of their favorite gathering spots.

Perhaps you’ve noticed, as I have, how active the birds have been in the past week or so. I’ve had a pair of cardinals, and groups of pine siskins and common redpolls off and on at my feeders lately. This morning, my nyjer feeder was covered with either siskins or redpolls or both — I couldn’t tell for sure in the morning light.
Anytime I go for a walk, now, I hear birds chirping excitedly, along with the occasional “SPRING-time” call of a chickadee.
On the other hand, I went in search of pine grosbeaks on the Western Waterfront Trail on Monday, and I only came up with chickadees and a pair of female downy woodpeckers fighting over a perch. Then I drove up and down Garfield Avenue looking for a snowy owl (at least one has been seen in that area), but only saw mallards and pigeons (off of Rice’s Point).

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A creepy lifer

In birdwatching circles, a “lifer” is a bird you see for the first time in your life.
Gary Bodie of Brainerd, Minn., saw a lifer on Wednesday: a brown creeper climbing a burr oak in his yard.
Gary identified it by looking through his binoculars. “Their coloring sure blends in well with the bark of the trees,” he writes.
I saw a brown creeper a couple of summers ago, and I have to agree.
Richard Crossley, in “The Crossley ID Guide,” writes: “Creeps or shimmies quietly up tree trunks, much like a brown-and-white mouse with a long spiky tail.”

My revelation this week was on Tuesday morning, when a female cardinal visited my safflower feeder. It was followed a few minutes later by a male cardinal on my deck. Far from a lifer, but always a treat.

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