A couple of weird things happened with this column last week. For one thing, the drawing got turned sideways, so the white-breasted nuthatch wasn’t climbing head first down a tree trunk, as nuthatches do, Instead, it had its beak in the air, a rather odd posture for a nuthatch, as some of you took the trouble to tell me. Thanks for pointing it out.
The other day a reader asked, “Are there any birds that don’t leave for the winter? This was an unexpected question — but a good one. It’s a good question because getting to know what birds to expect at a given time is a good way to learn the birds.
This year’s Christmas Bird Count produced nine snowy owls in the Grand Forks circle, the most in 50 years of counting. Counts at Crookston and Icelandic State Park in North Dakota had snowy owls during count week — three days either side of their count itself.
It was a pretty big week in the bird world. The biggest news in our area was the unexpected appearance of a Lewis’ woodpecker. It showed up about 10 days ago at Lowell and Janet Anderson’s place in Roosevelt, Minn. The bird became a bit of a sensation.
November is often a pretty good month for gulls, and so it has been this year. Dave Lambeth spotted an Iceland gull last week. This is a real rarity here. The sighting was the first record for Grand Forks County.
Fall is a good time of year to see blackbirds but not such a good time to identify them. Blackbirds are abundant this time of year, with their numbers swelled by young-of-the-year. They also are obvious, because they gather in enormous flocks. Telling the species apart is a challenge, however.
In the absence of brown thrashers — sorely missed this year — the yellow-bellied sapsuckers have stolen the show in our backyard. These two species have little in common, except for the use of color in their names.
Individually, the orioles are beautiful birds. As a group, orioles are complicated and confusing — perhaps even a little mysterious. The orioles that dropped in on backyards throughout the area last week showed none of the mystery but a great deal of the beauty.
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