Bird list and other natural events, January 2012

We were gone for the first 12 days of January, visiting family & friends, so our records and observations of this month are somewhat incomplete (our farm-sitters did keep up the precipitation records). However, the weather was stable, warm, and dry the entire time we were gone, and has stayed that way since, so I doubt we missed too much. Overall it’s been a lovely month, a mild winter after five harsh ones in a row. We only recorded .66″ of precipitation the entire month, continuing the ongoing dry spell that began last summer. Signs of the extra-warm conditions include snow geese already moving north, and the first flowers blooming (dandelion & corn speedwell, below).

The January bird list is very similar to December’s, not at all surprising. These are the standard birds that overwinter with us; their presence is familiar and welcome. Robins have been particularly abundant, with large flocks whirling through the treetops on multiple days. Bird activity really took off in the last few days of the month, under near-record warmth, as we saw 800 snow geese migrating one day, and multiple raptors riding thermals north the next day. On our monthly birding visit to Eagle Bluffs CA, we saw a wide variety of ducks and other birds, including rare close-up views of Sandhill Cranes. Always worth a trip down there, especially now that migration season is nearing.

Coyotes have continued to be very active, with two different packs audible many evenings. They’re actively thinning the deer herd; we had to drag a hollowed-out carcass from our stream one morning and dispose of it deeper in the woods. I’m glad to see this, as the herd is too large, and well-fed coyotes are hopefully less likely to bother domestic animals. Strong buildings and electric fences have so far kept the two populations comfortable separate, as it ought to be.

NEW IN JANUARY (1 species)
Snow Goose (migrating north); first seen 1/27, around 800 seen passing overhead on 1/29. This is almost three weeks earlier than the first snow geese in 2011 (first on-farm record 2/15/11).
Red-Tailed Hawk: these are in the region year-round, but are uncommon in our farm’s airspace. On 1/30 we saw 4 different ones riding thermals, probably moving north with the warm weather.

PRESENT IN JANUARY (22 species)
Canada Goose
Red-Shouldered Hawk (along with the Red-Tails on 1/30, saw at least 7 of these)
Bald Eagle (seen several times, including raptor day on 1/30)
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-Capped Chickadee
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin (flocking in large numbers toward the end of the month)
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Dark-Eyed Junco
American Goldfinch

MISSING/UNOBSERVED SINCE DECEMBER (1 species)
European Starling

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