With the wild, roller-coaster temperature swings we’ve been experiencing, I had hopes of seeing some feathered friends I haven’t seen in a few months. This week didn’t disappoint.
I had to travel for some work near Benedict for a couple days in a row where I was tasked with recording eagle observations. While traversing the project area over the course of two days, eagles were nowhere to be seen. However, I did see two eagles during the past week. One eagle was sitting in a tree on the edge of a wetland just off of U.S. Highway 83, and the other was cruising overhead as I crossed the Missouri River between Bismarck and Mandan on Interstate 94.
One day while temperatures were hovering just above zero with 20- to 30-mph winds, the only visible and audible birds observed were horned larks, snow buntings, a great-horned owl and a sharp-tailed grouse. Not even a pheasant poked its beak out. It was cold, with wind chills approaching -30.
The next day held much warmer temperatures nearing 40 above zero. The warm day brought a few species I hadn’t seen in months. I observed European starlings, red-winged blackbirds and a great-horned owl. Tens of thousands of Canada geese were observed on my way back home, southwest of Sanger. The large flocks of geese had me so intrigued, I thought I better stop to take a closer look with my spotting scope to see if any snow geese or greater white-fronted geese would be in the mix. Bummer, just Canada geese, but still a magnificent sight. The sounds of geese never get old and my eyes and ears perk up to observe them every time.
Other birds I’ve recently observed near feeders the past couple of days included pine siskins, common redpolls, black-capped chickadees, red crossbills, a cardinal, dark-eyed juncos and downy woodpeckers. A northern shrike perched atop a tree near a wooded draw showed itself. A flock of several hundred mallards has been making late-afternoon flights over my house in south Mandan this past week. Again, these waterfowl always get my attention when overhead, but seeing them in mid-winter is even more amazing.
Even though it may be frigid cold outside one day, and 40-above zero the next, I urge you to get outdoors and experience the birds all around us.