When I first moved to New York City, fresh from the open air and mountain views of Colorado, the best part of my week was grocery shopping. First thing Saturday morning, exhausted from a week of crying during and after work, I would head to the Union Square Farmers’ Market or Trader Joe’s and relish the feeling of coming home with a full hiking backpack of groceries. Then, it was back to work.
If only I’d had a bird feeder near a park during that time, I would have had a more consistent source of joy, at least on the weekends.
I could have tapped away diligently at my computer and been able to look up and see flashes of red house finches, goldfinches transitioning into their namesake color, bluejays screeching their superiority, the splashy mohawk of a red-bellied woodpecker, and upside-down nuthatches snagging a seed and heading to safer perches to feast.
It’s unlikely I would have seen the orange streak of a fox unsuccessfully hunting squirrels, though stranger things have happened in Manhattan.
The snowstorm has brought a plethora of hungry birds to my backyard feeder, and a lot more joy to my daily tasks than I would have thought. Washing dishes, filing papers, and folding laundry is much more interesting, not with YouTube in the background, but with squabbling and tumbling birds going about getting a meal.
Blue Jay, 2017
I complain unnecessarily about silly things. I especially have a tendency to complain about the cold, although now I feel a twinge of reluctance to do so, since the cold days are not as cold and the cold comes later than feels right. I would rather complain about cold than see honeybees buzzing around on a 60 degree December day.
So, to celebrate the cold (while still above historical averages), I walked around a local pond to celebrate the New Year with a two-pronged goal: see some cool wildlife and not whine about the chill and rain.
Nearby pond with a mix of mostly gulls and geese. 2017
Red-bellied woodpecker on utility pole. 2017
(An aside-the spring feels like the true new year for me, with the ground and water and air bursting with renewed life.)
I hit the jackpot for a quick winter walk at a random time of day-heard a kingfisher’s rattling call, saw a small group of hooded mergansers (best guess, no binoculars), unfortunately startled some gadwalls, and spotted a red-bellied woodpecker at the top of an electrical pole.
Hope you are starting off the New Year with some wildlife sightings!
Keeping common birds common is a mantra I’ve been hearing lately, as conservation often waits until something is closer to the abyss of extinction to act. A lot of common birds have been declining–tree swallows and Northern flickers among others.
Red-bellied woodpecker, blurry.
So I’ve been thrilled to see a red-bellied woodpecker hanging out at the local bird feeder. They do have a red belly, but it is the bold red stripe down their head and the black and white back that makes them unmistakable. (I had a professor tell me once that birds were often named after they’d been shot for collection, so the names often don’t reflect what you can actually see about a bird going about its bird business. Case in point.) Ordinary Eastern America birds are worth looking for and they deserve our active support in a world often hostile to birds.
Looking forward to a winter watching noisy chickadees, acrobatic nuthatches, and any other common birds that show up around my neighborhood, and hoping that they will remain common for millennia to come.