Winter so far

The winter has been very mild so far, with little snow and midday temperatures no lower than -5 °C (23 °F) or so. My memories from last year are filled with ankle-deep blankets of snow lingering for days at -15 °C (5 °F). Going through older blog entries, I can see we had those conditions (and worse), but not until February. The first two weeks after my arrival on January 3rd, 2011, were not much more wintery than the weather right now.

Of course, that’s not to say it isn’t winter, and nature has responded in her usual way of bare trees and birds migrating to warmer climes. Melissa and I put up a bird feeder outside the living room window, and the birds that haven’t left are making good use of it—especially when it snows. There’s a flock of sparrows spending the nights in a cedar bush next to the house and every morning they head over to the feeder for breakfast. The record so far is nine sparrows sitting down at once, accompanied by much squeaking and wing-flapping. Sparrows may look cute, but they’re quite vicious: they keep trying to push each other off, sometimes flying up from a little distance and knocking another, sometimes pecking at one another with their little beaks.

Other visitors to the feeder include a couple of chickadees and five or six cardinals (three male, two or three female) and, rather surprisingly, a hairy woodpecker (haarspecht). The hairy is a medium-sized woodpecker, growing to about 25 cm or 10 in. The feeder is shaped like a tube and is maybe 40 cm (16 in) tall, so the hairy woodpecker pretty much dwarfed the thing and was unable to get much out of it. It sat on the feeder for a while, undecisive, before flying off again. We haven’t seen it since, but we liked it so much that we’re going to put up a larger feeder to try and attract more of its kind.

Speaking of woodpeckers, I went out for a walk yesterday at Parker Mill Park (just east of AA) and spotted a red-bellied woodpecker (roodbuikspecht):

Red-bellied woodpecker

Let me take this opportunity to point out that bird names, in my opinion at least, do not always make sense. The red-bellied’s belly isn’t really red, nor is the hairy’s plumage in any way hairy. If an ornithologist or other expert happens to read this, feel free to enlighten me.

Here are some more recent bird pictures. The first one I took yesterday in Gallup Park, the others date back to Christmas at Melissa’s family.

Ring-billed gull
A ring-billed gull (ringsnavelmeeuw) in winter coat.

Blue jay
A blue jay (blauwe gaai).

Black-capped chickadee
A black-capped chickadee (Amerikaanse matkop).

Tufted titmouse
A tufted titmouse (tweekleurige mees).

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