January Birding

Whenever I head out the door to go birding, my husband tells me “I hope you will see what you are looking for.” During most of my outings, I don’t look for one particular bird, but stroll around one of my regular haunts while keeping track of whatever feathered friends show themselves on that particular day.

As fellow birders know, reports of an unusual or rare avian visitor in one’s home territory might trigger a kind of “hunting” instinct and result in a trip centered around the discovery of said rarity. If one is lucky, the bird will be present in the very spot where it had previously been observed, at the very moment one happens to be there. But more often than that, it will take multiple attempts to locate it again.

It is on such occasions that my husband’s wish gets amended to “I hope you will see what you are looking for—because it will make my day better, too.” Now why would he make such a statement? Why assert such a thing? Allegedly, my mood is affected negatively in case I don’t find the bird in question, and he claims that it’s no fun to be around me when that happens. Of course, I have no idea what he is talking about. 😊

January held several scenarios that necessitated repeated forays to local birding hotspots in search of some elusive bird. I finally beheld a Harris’s Sparrow and Northern Waterthrush at Fountain Creek Regional Park after 3 tries, and it took no fewer than 4 trips to Clear Spring Ranch to observe a Fox Sparrow. While neither bird was a lifer, I had encountered the sparrows only once or twice before, and the waterthrush only during migration. Right now, the latter is supposed to be overwintering along the Texas or Florida coasts, or in Central or northern South America.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover your cursor over it.

For my long-suffering significant other’s sake, I’m glad that, on some days, I get to see more than one bird on my wish list. So it happened on January 31, when I drove 50 miles south to Fremont County. Reports of various geese throughout the month had piqued my interest, and once those accounts started to include a Sandhill Crane in the days leading up to the 31st, they made up my mind. We get cranes in Colorado, but generally during their northbound or southbound migrations in spring and autumn, respectively. This bird was either left behind in the fall, or, more likely, was impatient to leave the wintering grounds in New Mexico by winging northward.

So on the last day of January, when the temperature was predicted to top 60 degrees and the forecast called for snow two days later, I wrapped up a satisfying month of birding at Valco Ponds in Cañon City. I was already extremely happy to have detected a triad of geese—a Snow, Ross’s, and Greater White-fronted Goose—in one location, something that happens only rarely. My happiness gave way to elation when the crane appeared seemingly out of nowhere, circled once above the pond, then landed in an adjacent field, where he had probably been feeding before.

To top it all off, a pair of domesticated turkeys, presumably out on a romantic excursion from one of the nearby farms, was doing a turkey trot in the parking lot, with him strutting his stuff and singing to her, and her beguiled by his splendor and musicality.

According to my spouse, I was in an exceptionally good mood when I returned home.

48 thoughts on “January Birding

  1. American sparrows are my nemesis – so confusing! I love your photo of the turkey – what a handsome fellow. And I noted with interest the German name for the Sandhill Crane, which I assume translated as “Canadian Crane?”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No wonder you were happy. What a richness of birds. A few years back, I saw sandhill cranes for the first time. I was over the moon. I was even lucky enough to see them in flight, so elegant and beautiful, as though they had just flown out of a Japanese print.

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    • Hi Neill,
      We hike together at certain times, but when we do, I won’t take as much time to look for birds as I do when I’m on my own, as that would really slow him down. He enjoys seeing birds, but won’t spend hours trying to look at them through binoculars the way I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cranes are fascinating birds, Tanja. We greet them as they fly over our residence in spring and autumn.
    The cool thing is we have often managed to see them before they are gone, because of their trumpeting. My spirit always raise when it happens 😊
    The waterthrush is lovely!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can certainly understand why you were in such a good mood after this outing!

    What a wonderful collection of birds! The Harris’s and Fox Sparrows are very uncommon in our area of central Florida so those alone would have improved my mood – for the rest of the year!

    We’re fortunate to have a resident population of Sandhill Cranes in Florida but during migration their northern cousins arrive by the thousands. All that trumpeting makes for magical music!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was very special to get to see these birds, especially the Fox Sparrow, which is not supposed to show up here. How lucky to have cranes here year-round where you are. But then you live in bird paradise. 🙂

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  5. Your husband must be even more pleased when you not only see the birds you hoped for but also take great photographs of them too – a happy household! (And those words make me think of the sweet turkey image – looks like they’re posing for a family portrait.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s true, Ann. Being able to capture a bird in a photo carries added happiness–for both of us. The turkeys were particularly accommodating and didn’t mind my being close at all. Maybe they really thought I had come to take their family portrait. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Congratulations on capturing these birds within the frame.

    I can imagine how excited you were. I’d have a big smile on my face if I was this lucky too 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, bravo to you, Tanja, for getting out and traveling 50 miles to view birds. You have quite a bit of the twitcher in you, for sure! 😉 I’ve never seen a sandhill crane, but one of these days…
    Hope you are well. We are on a three day streak of weather around 40 degrees each day. Unseasonably warm. I’ll take it, but we really should be having more snow so we have more water in the spring.
    Happy Birding My Friend,
    Julie

    Liked by 1 person

    • I try to control my twitching instinct, Julie, but sometimes it runs wild. 😊
      And I always have a bit of a bad conscience about burning fossil fuels and try to make up for it. After my trip last week, our winter storm kept me at home (and the car in the garage) for the next 3 days. Rationalization? Certainly, but I have to get away every once in a while.
      It’s been in the 40s and even 50s here for a few days and we only have a few snowy patches left. I hope both you and we will get to enjoy winter (and water or snow) for a while longer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My “go to” Audubon is 9 miles down the road, and I go there several times a week. I wish there was something as wonderful in my town, so I wouldn’t be wasting gas, but, on other hand, the calmness the visits bring to me seem so well worth it! And I feel that the nature postings both of us share on the web surely have some at least small effect on the treasuring of wildlife and the natural world!

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      • I have several similar ” go-tos” in town and most of them are less than 10 miles from home. A few are even in walking distance and I try to make use of that regularly. But I feel like you and can’t do without the peace and calmness some of these favorite destinations bring, so I drive there.

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  8. Haha, yes I can see how happy you were when you got home! I sometimes go hiking but birds flies so quick! Maybe next time I should bring opera glass to find adorable birds💕✨

    Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your beautiful capture📸✨

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  9. I’ve often thought of the different ways of birding as being analogous to searching or browsing on the internet. I’m a browser. I go out, and whatever I happen to see is what I see; I don’t have a life list, and I’ve never gone out to look for a specific bird. I don’t even own binoculars! On the other hand, when I do meet a bird, I do what I can to learn about its habits, and I record where I’ve found it. Then, at minimum, I’m aware that I might see the same species in that place again.

    No matter our approach, taking the time to look is key — and sometimes it doesn’t take much looking. Last week, I happened to glance up from my desk and there was a Cooper’s hawk on my porch railing, staring at me as if to say, “Where have you hidden all the tasty songbirds?” There’s just no predicting what will show up!

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    • I think that’s part of the beauty of spending time in nature and of paying attention. Each of us gets so much out of it, regardless of our approach and our focus.
      I have had similar experiences of looking out of the window and seeing something completely unexpected (although I prefer not to be watching when the Cooper’s Hawk catches one of the other yard birds).

      Liked by 1 person

    • So true, Gunta, birds make our days, months, and lives. And how nice that we have husbands who support what we love. 🙂
      I’m still happy to have seen the crane and hope he has weathered several snowfalls since then.

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