Winter Visitors

The standard view of winter is of loss. Flowers, butterflies, leaves on trees, hibernating mammals and migrating birds: all gone. Winter is thus just a cold, quiet, sparse time. The most notable exception to this is the arrival of winter ducks from the north (for a discussion of them, please visit my 11/9/2015 blog post).

However, there are other winter bird visitors as well. In Colorado, some of these are altitudinal migrants moving down the mountains to lower elevations. Others come from as far north as the Arctic. To them, Colorado is their “Florida”. Then there are the strange cases of birds that for some reason don’t migrate at all, though virtually all other members of their species have done so. I have found that the more I seek out all of these various winter visitors, the more I enjoy and appreciate the season.

This winter my searches have been rewarded with Rough-legged Hawks, American Tree Sparrows, Lapland Longspurs and Rosy Finches. White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Pine Siskins and, in some years, Harris’s Sparrow are also welcome visitors. A single Say’s Phoebe decided to go it alone and has stayed all winter at Venetucci Farm, while its fellow phoebes have all gone south. And like any good fisherman’s story, there has to be the one (or in this case several) that got away. A brief glimpse of a short-eared Owl at dusk, tantalizing reports of Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings, Redpolls and Long-eared Owls are all birds still out there to seek.

Before long the season will shift and as early as February, birds will begin to move north again. I thus find myself not dreading the long and endless winter but rather feeling how ephemeral and shortly lived this season is.

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