Well, February will certainly be remembered around here; it was quite different from last year’s absurdly warm & dry month. After a first three weeks of stable, moderately moist, unremarkable weather, winter remembered its existence for the first time in two years and dropped two major winter storms in our laps within 5 days. The remaining week of February was quite memorable, not least because of the excellent birding produced by so much snow. Though the short-term damage and inconvenience are real, in the long run we’ll be very grateful for this much moisture added to the soil as we hopefully begin recovering from last year’s drought. Read on for this month’s extra-long bird list and some fun photos taken at our feeder.
Though no CSA members took part in our Backyard Bird Count event, it was a pleasant day with 19 species recorded, including several thousand Snow Geese soaring overhead in the brilliant sun. Indeed, geese were quite active through most of the month, generally heading northwest in flock after flock of hundreds and thousands. It’s a wonderful sight and sound, a part of this season that we cherish and look forward to.
The heavy snow brought all sorts of birds out of the woodwork and woodlands, including many species we know are around but rarely see. Flocks of small birds congregated around our porch feeder, including some unusual or at least not regularly seen species (for us, anyway). The storms seemed to disrupt the flight patterns of geese, too, as we repeatedly saw various flocks of Canadas and Snows flying low beneath the clouds in all sorts of directions, fighting the swirling winds and trying to navigate. We even had a sighting of Greater White-Fronted Geese, first for this property though they’re more common along the Missouri River, again flying low over the farm trying to navigate on a wintry day.
In general, the total species numbers for February are about the same as last year, but the pattern is different. Last year’s very warm weather brought the early arrival of many birds, including Woodcocks (first heard in 2012 on 2/22, with mating displays 3/1), Killdeer, and Turkey Vultures. Spring birds like these will likely be much later this year, though our species count stayed similar due to various other uncommon birds showing up at our feeders during and after the storms (see notes below).
Given the heavy attendance at our feeder, we took the time to play with some basic bird photography. Here are a few of the species which took refuge on our porch during and after the storms.
Above, American Tree Sparrow and Dark-Eyed Junco Above, White-Breasted Nuthatch and American Goldfinch
Above, female and male Purple Finch.
RECORDED IN FEBRUARY (34 species, 11 new relative to January, 2
unobserved since January) Great Blue Heron
Greater White-Fronted Goose (showed up after the storms)
Red-Tailed Hawk (became quite active after the storms)
Mourning Dove (showed up at the feeder after the storms)
Great Horned Owl
European Starling (showed up at the feeder after the storms)
Cedar Waxwing (surprisingly absent most of the month)
Song Sparrow (showed up after the storms)
American Tree Sparrow (showed up at the feeder after the storms)
Fox Sparrow (showed up at the feeder after the storms)
Red-Winged Blackbird (showed up after the storms)