Birding on a Cold November Day
(Listen to the radio version here.)
On Saturday, Russ and I took a drive in northern Wisconsin to see what birds might be around. It was a typical November day, cold, windy, and quiet, but we gave it the old college try.
For a week or two, people had been reporting a Western Kingbird at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland. Russ had never walked on the boardwalk where his mom and I used to take walks, so we made that our first stop.
There were a couple of red squirrels and a few birds at the feeders, but not much, so Russ went up to the observation tower while I stayed lower, still searching for that kingbird. And suddenly, eureka! There it was, flying right past me and winging over a little pond before alighting on a railing. It sat for less than 5 seconds, but I whipped up my camera, focused, and got a picture just in time before that plucky little bird disappeared.
We took Highway 13 to Port Wing and saw very few birds along the way until we got to Herbster, where a lovely flock of about a dozen Bohemian Waxwings perched in a mountain ash, all in the bare branches above the berries. They tried to keep their faces to the wind, but when one or two did turn to get a quick straight-on look at me, the wind whipped the feathers of their crests every which way.
In Port Wing, we walked the length of my beloved Big Pete Road and stepped onto the beach but didn’t spot even a chickadee. The only bird I saw or heard was one lone Herring Gull.
The wind was whipping waves over the break wall at the Port Wing Harbor, the rocks all iced up. And we saw ZERO birds. No matter how cold and windy it is, as long as there is open water, there are virtually always gulls there, so I wondered if a fishing boat had lured them all somewhere else.
At the Michele Wheeler Wetland Restoration Area—that is, the old sewage ponds—the only bird we saw was a lone American Tree Sparrow who stayed up only a single second, so went unphotographed.
So it was a bittersweet day, but at least reminded me that if I have to deal with surgery and a fairly long recovery period, at least this is happening when it’s cold and windy and quiet out there.
Meanwhile, BB’s been coming to my feeder regularly along with my trusty old chickadees and two Blue Jays. Life is good.
This will be the last you hear from me until I’m up to thinking about birds again. When I had my lumpectomy 6 years ago, I came out of anesthesia blathering on and on and on about chickadees—we’ll see what happens this time. Meanwhile, please don’t email me. I don’t want to be overwhelmed and feel way behind the moment I fire up the old computer again.
For the duration, enjoy your chickadees, hug some people you love, and be kind.