WORDS ON BIRDS
Looking Ahead After Winter Solstice
December 23, 2017
By Steve Grinley
passed the winter solstice and, though we are facing a New England
winter ahead of us, we can at least look forward to the days getting
progressively longer. It is, therefore, appropriate that once again
I share a solstice day story written years ago by friend and fellow
birder, Doug Chickering of Groveland:
"Lois Cooper and I birded our way into the Winter Solstice, another
one of those quiet inevitable markers of our years. The pallid sun
makes it's lowest journey across the sky; seemingly always in our
eyes, or spreading a glare across the ice and the waters of Plum
Island. It was actually a beautiful, deep winter day. A hesitant
wind drifted in from the Northwest; clean, dry and cold - not
biting, but touched enough with its arctic origin as to slowly
penetrate even the hearty winter coats; draining away the body's
warmth and eventually bringing on shivers. Extremely high, vapid
clouds filtered the blue from the sky and the feeble heat from the
sun. “There was enough energy in the sun to begin to melt the frost
from the dirt road that stretches south from Hellcat, but not enough
to soften the snow and ice that remained in the fields and at the
roads edge. We came across no exceptional birds. The highlight of
the day being a nice peregrine falcon perched on a crest of snow on
the far side of the Pans. Its menacing presence keeping the large
flock of nearby starlings annoyed and restless as they attempted to
feed at the side of the road.
must admit that I cannot help but admire the birds of winter;
especially the little guys. Even though I know that it is
technically inaccurate to ascribe human qualities to them; that they
are only reacting to their surroundings in an instinctive timeless
manner, yet I cannot help but regard them as being nearly heroic.
Their persistence, courage and luck in the face of the stark,
uncompromising cruelty of deep winter is inspiring. There is
something particularly noble of a tiny chickadee, a redpoll, or
American tree sparrow puffed up against the crackling cold, foraging
and calling to one another; obviously determined to prevail until
"Off Emerson Rocks we
had a nice sampling of winter ducks: common eider, common goldeneye,
oldsquaw [long-tailed ducks], black scoter, and white-winged scoter.
Also, there were several common loons, a few horned grebes, and a
pair of Bonaparte's gulls flying in from off the sea. We had nothing
noteworthy, other than the Peregrine, although on Saturday we saw
the screech owl in it's tree on Route 1A in Rowley, and Friday
afternoon we did find the northern shrike in the treetops on the
ocean side at the extreme south end of the Town Marker Field.
"Parts of the winter to come, I look
forward to. I hope snowy owls will arrive at Plum Island again,
along with other owls. We'll be looking for alcids at Andrews Point,
and maybe some more winter finches. New Years Day will renew the
lists and there's the Christmas Bird Count...that Lois and I enjoy
immensely. There will also be winter times that will not be so
welcome. Stormy days, bad driving, the inevitable winter spill on an
icy sidewalk; shoveling snow and the pervasive, endless cold. Still,
starting now, the days will be getting longer and we will be heading
in the general direction of warblers."
Doug will be glad to know that the snowy owls have already arrived
on Plum Island this year with as many as six being seen in one day.
Doug’s admiration of the survival of winter birds should serve as a
reminder for us to keep our feeders filled during these coming
months. Birds are flocking to feeders, so keeping food and open
water available for them is important in helping them survival the
winter ahead. During these colder days, birds are devouring our seed
and suet, and Margo was thrilled to see three male bluebirds
drinking from the heated bird bath on our deck.
We wish you a wonderful holiday season and a new year of colorful
and fascinating birds!
Bird Watcher's Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
years of service to the birding community!
Like us on Facebook!
Index of Recent