February 2: Ventured up into Alcona and Oscoda counties, sticking mostly to snowmobile trails and seasonal roads. A nice break in the weather with new snowfall made for a very scenic ride. We also had a Northern Saw-whet Owl at Thompsons landing along the AuSable river.

February 3: It began in earnest a few days ago- 2 male Red-bellied Woodpeckers, vocalizing back and forth for hours on end. One male is on our property where it perches on the same dead tree each day, and does alot of ritual head swaying. They are also doing alot of rapid drumming. Each day their calls seem louder and more frantic as they stake out their respective territories. I was able to record their calls, which are a bit hard to hear over the Blue Jays that always give away my presence when I first walk out into the woods.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

February 5: Spent the afternoon at Tawas Point SP, where we literally had the park to ourselves. Sighted a couple small flocks of Cedar Waxwings and many American Tree Sparrows were feeding at the park feeders. A very blustery day.

February 6: An adult Bald Eagle has returned to the nest area near Rose City. This will be our 3rd year of observing this particular nest and I'm always happy to see them return to carry on the circle of life.

February 7: A quick trip over to the Prescott area today brought additional sightings of Ring-necked pheasants, both male and female. The temps have plummeted again and the cold winds continue. Close to home we had a nice long look at a Northern Shrike.

February 9: Despite the bitter cold temperatures, the sun was shining brightly today- so we spent the better part of the afternoon trailriding in the recreation area. One fun thing about new snowfall is being able to find fresh animal tracks. We found the tracks of deer, rabbit, weasel, fox, coyote, bobcat, turkey and mice. A fun afternoon spent in our favorite place.

February 14: A female Red-bellied Woodpecker had two very active males seeking her attention with their dueling calls. They vocalize and drum for hours while she visits the suet feeder often.

The Nothern Cardinal pair seem more friendly to each other now and are coming into the open yard more often.

February 17: We ventured over to Clare County today, and the temperatures of 30+ degrees were such a welcome change after 2 solid months of deep freeze weather. We met up with a fellow NMB member near Clare then drove out to the rural farmland in search of the recently reported Golden Eagles- we sighted one juvenile golden and one juvenile bald eagle as well. Many horned larks, snow buntings and hawk species today.

February 19: We finally made it to Tuscola county today & worked the area for 3-4 hours in search of Snowy Owls. We sighted one adult- This owl was totally white & hunkered down in a field, at least 150 yards off the road. We were able to pull off over a culvert and view it with the scope & since I was faced directly into the sun so didn't even bother with trying to take photos- it's been many years since we sighted our last snowy, a juvenile on an ice floe out from Nayanquing, & this was our first adult sighting ever- a stunning bird in every sense of the word. Also came across many many horned larks throughout the area, a Bald Eagle soaring over a field where we also sighted a very large eagle-sized nest nearby- Many hawks sighted today including Red-tailed, Northern Harrier, Coopers and quite a few A. Kestrels. At Fish Point near the shoreline we had a small flock of Cedar Waxwings. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and an adult Snowy Owl with the most gorgeous golden eyes gazing back at our own. I'd say it was a perfect day.

February 20: While waiting for our vehicle to be serviced in West Branch this afternoon, Garry and I stepped outside to enjoy the sunshine. I sat on the sidewalk watching a few American Crows across the highway when two large birds appeared overhead. Two adult Bald Eagles soared into view, directly over the dealership. They circled around and around the same area for quite awhile, in large graceful circles that overlapped the other. Since our bins were sequestered away inside the jeep, I walked backwards away from the building into the parking lot, shading my eyes with my hand so I could see them a bit clearer- Garry noticed my attention was turned skyward and soon stood by my side.. then two gentlemen that had been checking out a truck walked over and stood near us, one exclaiming how beautiful they were.. two salesmen and one secretary walked out from their offices inside the building, probably wondering what we were all watching.. & before the eagles soared out of view there were at least a dozen of us in a loosely formed group, all smiling upwards at the sky. Traffic rushed by, speakers alerted so & so that he had a call on line 2, but for several minutes a dozen strangers were not strangers at all... the eagles had woven a tangible circle of kinship beneath their wings.

February 21: A glorious day with temperatures hitting the low 40's. The birds are singing more each day and our lone male Purple finch made a quick appearance at the feeders. We had dozens of them last year, but this winter we've had just the one male. He's coming into his breeding plumage and is just gorgeous.

I've been noticing that the female N. Cardinal has been coming in to feed late in the evenings without the male for the past week. He is always by her side, so something must have happened to him.

February 23: Despite the return of artic cold air, two chipmunks came out of their burrows today to grab a bit of corn. I was surprised to see them out in the cold weather, but they have probably ran out of food stores. I enjoy the little rascals and soon we'll have dozens of them scurrying around.

February 24: Returning from Rose City this afternoon, we turned south onto a new trail we've recently discovered, and there sat a beautiful Barred Owl on the 'seasonal road' sign. What ensued was a good 45 minutes of us sitting inside the jeep watching the owl methodically hunt the grassy areas next to the road- it worked it's way slowly south while we followed at some distance behind. It made two attempts at a kill, and the last one was successful- the owl never really looked right at us and when we left the area it was still hunting the east side of the trail. Sure made our day!

February 25: We had two male and two female Purple Finch at the feeders today. Last year the females arrived on March 22, so maybe we're in for an early spring this year.

While driving around the Prescott area this afternoon, near the Great Blue Heron Rookery, we came upon 9 Rough-legged Hawks. We parked and watched 4 of them directly overhead while they listening to them 'keering' from up high.. they wheeled, soared and dove in a most spectacular mating display. To watch them roll then tuck their wings in tight against their body and plunge down towards the ground just is awesome! Also sighted 2 Red-tailed hawks & 3 Northern Harriers in this area. As friend Rick B. would say-this was definitely another 'good bird karma' day.

February 28: I sat out back this afternoon enjoying the increasing birdsongs and calls- the woodpeckers are all into their ritual drumming and displays. I had 3 Brown Creepers swirling around me and these birds are just so fast and never sit still long. They tolerate my presence well and often will land within inches of my feet.

February ended on a sunny note and I can almost smell spring in the air now.

Additional 2003 journals: January- March-April-May-June-July-August-September- October-November-December

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