Adding a Few Birds for the Year in February

(Written February 16, 2022)

The Varied Thrush, first seen next to our yard in our neighbor’s fruiting tree (cherry? crabapple?) on January 6th, and then not seen again until January 25th, was seen periodically during the first half of February (on 8 of the 15 days so far). The fruit tree by now is almost naked of fruit. I have tried to attract the thrush to a feeder in our yard with cut-up blueberries and raspberries, dried mealworms and cracked corn in the feeder and on the ground below it, but although the thrush sits in our maple tree above that feeder, I have not seen it eat anything in our yard.

Probably related to the over 100 Common Redpolls in the yard and often 20 or more Mourning Doves, our neighborhood Cooper’s Hawk has been a regular visitor, landing in the maple tree, or sometimes nailing a hapless redpoll or dove. When the Varied Thrush has been recently seen, I become protective of it, and often go out on the porch to chase away the hawk, which usually works.

I took a day-trip on February 10th to look for Golden Eagles at Devil’s Lake State Park south of Wausau a bit over 100 miles. I was a bit unclear as to where to look for the eagles, but settled on parking at an overlook near where I understood that they had been seen. I waited. Nothing. And where was the “east bluff” and the “west bluff” that had been mentioned in posts on eBird? There seemed to be numerous bluffs around. After an hour or so, a car arrived, and 5 or 6 people, some with binoculars, piled out of the car and walked rapidly up the road. Maybe they knew. So I followed. They did know, and although no eagles were seen before they left, I was able to see 3-4 Bald Eagles, and then two Golden Eagles about half an hour later. The latter came from the direction of what I now knew was the east bluff, flew overhead, and disappeared over the west bluff, as previously reported. But, the very good news was, they did not actually disappear. They landed at the top of that bluff, and could be photographed there!

Another exciting sighting in February was of three Red-headed Woodpeckers on a Wisconsin Society for Ornithology field trip to a few counties about 50 miles south of Wausau on February 12th. The woodpeckers were flying around and landing in large dead-appearing deciduous trees just off the road. These woodpeckers are definitely not rare here, especially in the summer, but somehow I had missed them and these were the first I had seen since we moved here in May last year.

My most recent unexpected sighting was on February 14th. My goal birds (boreal forest birds) were nowhere to be found, but I had a very pleasant drive up to the northeast of Wausau about 80-100 miles. Birds were few and far between, consisting mainly of Blue Jays, American Crows, Common Ravens, and Black-capped Chickadees, until I got to Alvin, where before I turned around I found a feeder where Evening Grosbeaks were added to my day-list. Just before that, however, along a very snowy road with absolutely no other cars seen for over an hour, I found a Barred Owl perched on a limb that extended out over the side of the road. It was awake, and turned its head a bit as I backed the car up after lurching crunchily to a sudden halt in the snow. It never flew but just regarded me solemnly the whole time. I often say that it is impossible not to be happy on a day when you see an owl (or a crane or a hummingbird). I was very happy. The boreal birds can wait until another day.

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