that really November? Seemed more like an October/March hybrid.
I was disappointed with the storm scene, but relished the
great hiking weather. Maybe it will turn nasty in December
- howling northern gales and snow drifts piled six-feet high
running the length of main street. Dont snicker, it
has happened before.
I look forward to the weather. Foul weather
brings birds down off of the mountains or drives some of those
northern species southward. Though I may not get common redpolls
at my feeder, chances are that some evening grosbeaks will
arrive if the mercury drops. But until that happens, Ill
have to be content with the current weather and start setting
up for the winter birds.
lets start in my backyard. We have a couple of feeders
out for winter finches. I like to use a tube feeder with niger
thistle seed for American and lesser goldfinches, and hope
that some pine siskins will show. Though the Americans
are in drab winter plumage, the male lessers look sharp in
their black overcoats. Both of these birds feed upside down
- they hang from a wooden perch and feed at the tiny ports.
This type of feeder eliminates the house sparrows - who eat
like starved dogs - who wolf down available seed. I also reduce
the millet-dominated seed mixes for they encourage the house
sparrows to linger like unwanted holiday guests.
Some years we make suet balls out of rendered
beef fat and mix in nuts, seeds or chopped fruit. I hang them
out of dog reach - imagine horrible smelling belches - and
place a pan or dish to collect the droppings. These balls
will attract chickadees, woodpeckers, magpies, scrub jays,
and nuthatches and the pan is necessary to catch the pieces
that flake off from the ball. Again, my dog has learned to
search the drop zone for pieces of high-energy fat.
source of winter fat for the birds is peanut or almond butter
which I smear directly onto the tree trunk in our front yard.
It may take a couple of applications, but soon nuthatches
and brown creepers will be viewed out our front window.
When Im not in the yard, one area
I go birding in is the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve.
It helps that I work there, but some days I venture off with
binoculars in tow and leave the office cares behind. The diverse
habitats there attract a number of songbird species and those
that come to feed upon them. Numerous sharp-shinned and Coopers
hawks patrol the woodlands for juncos and sparrows, while
harriers course over the wetland areas in search of blackbirds,
wrens and small rodents. Of course, the open water areas attract
the waterfowl - ring-necked ducks, Canada geese, green-winged
teal, wood ducks, and mallards. About fifteen species of waterfowl
may be regularly observed in the Preserve in winter.
Another great spot for waterfowl is the
pond at Old City Park. Among the mutant ducks and militant
geese are American widgeons, wood ducks and others. If you
sneak up onto the stage and peer over the half-wall, youll
get a better chance to see the ducks on the pond, versus just
Another great winter birding location is
the old highway between Crescent Junction and Cisco. Numerous
bald and golden eagles, ferruginous and red-tailed hawks,
and prairie falcons may be viewed from a vehicle as the birds
perch upon the telephone poles that line the roadway. Though
the area looks abandoned and lifeless, it teams with activity.
course, the list goes on. There are many great locations in
Moab to watch birds in December. In addition, there is the
Christmas Bird Count which will be held on January 5, 2002.
I think this year is the 103rd running of the count and it
is a great way to share your birding enthusiasm with others,
and to get in a little winter birding while others anxiously
await spring thaw. If you are interested in participating
in this years count, contact Rick Boretti or Andrea
Brand at 259-4050.
Happy Birding Holidays!