January 1: The first bird sighting for 2003- American Goldfinch. When I peered out my curtains this morning, 3 beautiful goldies were perched on the thistle feeder outside the window- a bright start to a new year.
January 5: A large herd of deer came in to feed tonight, numbering over 15. I didn't see the wounded doe among them, and haven't seen her in over 2 weeks now. I hope she's fairing well. The snowcover is still minimal so the herd isn't very stressed compared to most winters and they all look healthy and fit.
January 8: I always enjoy watching a flock of Snow Buntings- those white and black wing flashes, turning & circling the skies in unison- usually waiting to flush from the roadside until we get right next to them in our vehicle. They've been pretty scarce in our area this season, so the 3 small flocks that we observed yesterday afternoon in southern Oscoda county were a welcome and fun sighting- we pulled off onto the shoulder to watch them flush, circle and return a few times- just because we could.
January 11: While washing dishes and watching 25+ Mourning Doves feeding under the blue spruce in the back, they suddenly spooked and away they went- doves spook easily so I clalked it up to 'a dove thing' until I noticed a large grey squirrel scamper up the trunk of a nearby oak, where it proceeded to scold loudly, facing the pond. The object of it's worry soon flew into view- a large Northern Goshawk, gaining height slowly due to the weight of a Mourning dove in it's talons. Watching it fly to the northeast where it landed within the treeline to finish it's meal, two large birds came circling down that must have watched this kill from up high, then both of them perched in our tallest white pine- their white heads gleaming in the sun, they watched the goshawk with rapt interest, until the hawk became uncomfortable under their piercing gaze and again rose up and carried it's prey further back into the woods. The two Bald Eagles soon lost all interest and one after the other, flew off into the setting sun. This all took place in a matter of just a couple minutes, and feeling like I'd missed a great drama by having my attention on brillo pads at the time, I donned layers and went out to see if there were any signs of what had taken place. Now that we have snow again the story was told in the tracks & marks left by both birds. The goshawk had flown in from the southeast, where the dove sat near the pond totally unaware. Swiftly and without any wasted movements, it landed on the dove from behind and knocked it forward- they both slid into the pond and scuffled momentarily on the ice surface- the goshawk then hopped up onto the other side of the pond where it pinned down it's prey & hooded over the dove with wings spread out wide in the snow. The wingtips were like a strong and bold pencil, leaving words easily read.
January 13: The weather feels absolutely brutal with the howling winds on top of the cold temperatures. The birds and animals have all been feeding quite heavily- even the red squirrels were out today. I often see black-capped chickadees and tufted Titmice seeking refuge from the winds under the eaves of the garage.
January 14: We watched a Northern Harrier using the strong winds to it's advantage while in the Prescott area today. It faced into the wind while hawking low over a field with methodical movements. It searched the entire field and took it's time looking for a meal. They make gliding and hovering seem so totally effortless.
January 18: Our pond pump went on the fritz last night, so the pond was pretty frozen up this morning. I took a pail of water out and poured it over the heater and a leopard frog jumped out of the water into the snow! I couldn't believe my eyes. Apparently the water has been just warm enough to keep this frog from hibernating. Since the pond will no doubt freeze solid by the time I get the pump fixed, I brought him inside and placed him in one of my plastic critter tubs. He's very skinny, and has obviously been surviving on body fat for some time. I'll place him back out in the water once it warms up enough to fix the pump. The Northern Cardinal pair visited the seed scattered about the pine trees several times today. I suppose I shouldn't call them a 'pair' since the male seems very aggressive towards the female, not like the usual easy-going & attentive behavior of a mated pair.
January 20: We've had lake effect snow off and on for the past few days and received some accumulation overnight. The deer are coming in to feed earlier now, and are starting to fight more over the food. I enjoy watching the two small twin fawns that always manage to crawl under the blue spruce boughs where I scatter mixed seed for the doves. The dove numbers have been high this season, but the total was minus one today after a small Sharp-shinned hawk zipped into the backyard. It made its kill swiftly and wasn't much larger than the dove.
January 21: On the way home from picking up seed, we sighted a few Northern Harriers, quite a few American Crows & a beautiful male American Kestrel. This male is usually always present at a nearby dairy farm where it watches over the large sparrow population with a sharp eye.
January 23: On the way back from West Branch this afternoon, we came upon 2 adult Bald Eagles right near the roadside- one in the ditch and one perched on a deadfall cleaning it's talons and beak. We sat and watched them from less than 10 feet away, able to see those piercing yellow eyes without the aid of bins- this is the closest I've been to an eagle in the wild, I had goosebumps and it wasn't from the cold. We rushed home, put away a few groceries, grabbed the camera and went back to this spot hoping they'd still be present. They were, but they had flown further back into the treeline. I checked the area where one had been sitting in the ditch and there was a small un-identifiable roadkill of some kind there- tufts of brown fur barely seen under the snowcover, but there. A testament to the keen eyesight of these birds, a person walking on the roadside would have been hard pressed to see it had they not been looking for it. We also sighted Red-tailed hawks, Northern Harriers, American Kestrels and a gorgeous Rough-legged hawk on the trip back. This big bruiser was harassing area rock doves.
January 24: I dug out our old aquarium and fixed a habitat for the leopard frog today. With these bitter cold temperatures I'm unable to repair the pond pump just yet, so he needed a bit more room to roam around.
January 26: After yesterdays 'warm' temps. of nearly 20 degrees, todays winds were absolutely brutal. The birds were feeding heavily all day and tonights forecast is for possible 30 degrees below zero temperatures. That's enough to make a chickadee shiver!
January 28: Finally- temperatures above 10 degrees for a change. It must have also felt good to the area pheasant population. While driving around the Prescott area this afternoon, we sighted 3 male pheasants. One of which was hunkered down in tall grasses behind our bank.