December was a wonderful month here. The weather was pleasantly seasonal, with gradually declining temperatures and many sunny days, and enough rain but no disruptive storms. Along with an equally reasonable November, we’ve had a long stretch now of sensible, enjoyable weather that we’ll try to remember whenever it ends. We spend somewhat less time outdoors in December, partly because of office work, and so naturally have less time to see and hear birds and other events, but this is normally a quiet natural month anyway.
Birds were very quiet over the first half of the month, but starting on the 18th much larger mixed flocks of robins, bluebirds, waxwings, titmice, juncoes, chickadees, goldfinches, and more began appearing. During the week leading up to Christmas, it often felt like an aviary outdoors, as flocks of birds packed our trees, chattering and singing away, while other streams of them coursed through and over the treetops. This began around the time a major winter storm walloped the Plains west and north of here, and I suspect many of these birds were moving south ahead of the inclement weather.
Hawks have been all but missing, with only one Red-Shouldered and no Red-Tails observed all month. We’ve seen or heard no sparrows, either, though many do overwinter in this area and we saw multiple species on a morning hike at Rudolf Bennitt Conservation Area, about 15 miles northwest of here. Our Great Horned Owls are clearly remaining for the winter, though, as they can often be heard hooting at dusk from their roosts just to the north along Silver Fork.
NEW IN DECEMBER (1 species, some observed earlier this year but not in November)
European Starling (one dense flock one day)
PRESENT IN DECEMBER (22 species)
Red-Shouldered Hawk (seen once)
Bald Eagle (seen once soaring over the farm)
Great Horned Owl
MISSING/UNOBSERVED SINCE DECEMBER (6 species)