Last Weeks of Winter

Winter has less than a week to go and it’s been a mild one in Hutchinson County for the most part.  There was a week or two in December that was really cold and a couple of small snowfalls in January.  February and early March were very windy-there were several days of 60+mph winds.  There was a large grass fire between Fritch and Borger a few weeks ago during one of the windstorms.  Last week we had about 3 days of nice rain.  We probably got less than an inch total but we certainly enjoyed it.  Since the rain things have begun greening up a little and the last few days have been beautiful and sunny and relatively wind free with temperatures in the 80’s.

There have been a lot of birds at the feeders this month.  The Red-winged Blackbirds found us around the first of the month and have been here daily since.  They are a raucous bunch and add substantially to the noise of the finches and sparrows and the Blue Jay.  This morning I heard a Great-tailed Grackle out there.  It really will get noisy if that gang become regulars.  I saw the first Northern Mockingbirds

Northern Mockingbird

since last fall today, also, and Sheila saw a Northern Cardinal this morning as she worked in the yard.

Sheila’s planting holly and hawthorn shrubs, a crabapple tree and blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to try to draw more of the berry loving avian crowd.  We lost a  Catalpa tree and our honeysuckle last summer in the heatwave.  Both had been in the yard for over 20 years.  We couldn’t find a honeysuckle but we did buy a couple of jasmine.  Maybe they’ll draw the hummingbirds.

Migrations have started.  I’ve seen lots of pelicans, cormorants, and Mallards the last few weeks.  I’ve also seen Snow Geese the last few times I’ve been to the lakebut the Canada Geese have already gone.  The Snow Geese have a strange  looking “grin” painted onto the side of their bills.  It looks like something Terry Gillam might have done with a sharpie at a frathouse party.

There were two flycatchers at Cedar Canyon.  I’ve not been able to positively ID them yet, but I think that they are either  Gray or  Hammond’s Flycatchers.  For all I know, they might not even be flycatchers.  I’m waiting on some help from ebird.  Either would be a new species for my lists. (edit: turns out they were Townsend’s Solitaires, a bird that wintere’s here in the Panhandle) I was also able to get a good photo of a Greater Yellowlegs. I saw some American Avocets yesterday.  I photographed a flock last fall in their normal plumage, but the ones yesterday were in breeding colors.

I think my favorite bird so far this month has been the Rock Wrens.  I’ve seen them around most of the winter, but in the last weeks they have become very vocal.  Their songs are beautiful and they sing with such enthusiasm, bobbing up and down on top of a large rock or stump, I wish I could sing along.I startled this Redhead at Spring Canyon.  He took off with his breakfast stringing along behind him, landed and glared at me until I left.

In  3 more months I’ll have completed my first year of birding.  I’m looking forward to seeing the Mississippi Kites again.  I’ve done a lot of research in the last year and it looks as if there are about 300 species of birds that can be seen in Hutchinson County if you count the migrants and the rare visitors.  I’ve photographed about a third of them. I’ve still got a pretty long row to hoe.

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