It rarely snows in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s “the south” after all. When we moved here last October from the Pacific Northwest, we received a variety of winter tales from North Carolina locals and transplants. It gets cold. But not too cold. Highs in the 50s. Highs in the 40s. It can freeze at night. 60s sometimes. Rarely snow. No snow. Rains a bit. Honestly, I was just glad to not have to suffer another rainy winter in the Pacific Northwest.*
Our Raleigh winter started off really warm and stayed that way. It was really nice. We saw many 70-degree days in December, and I started to think that sitting on our front porch would be a year-round, daily activity. Winter finally showed up in Raleigh earlier this month, and I grudgingly went into the shed to get my bin of winter outdoor layers. Then, we had a winter storm watch, which materialized into freezing rain. This past weekend, we had another winter storm watch, which materialized into snow.
I love warm weather, but I also love snow. I took many photos of our house and the snow like it had been my first time experiencing snow (I am from Ontario, Canada). Here’s a little snowy slide show of our cute new-to-us house and property! It’s close to downtown Raleigh. It was built in the late 1800s and was in the previous owner’s family since 1907. We love it.
I was surprised we got this much snow! It covered the grass, so I give it 3.5 stars. I went outside post-coffee to take some morning snow shots and made sure my birds had plenty of seed. After stuffing my face with blueberry pancakes, I spent my morning taking photos of the birds stuffing their faces with seed.
And perhaps yes, sitting on our front porch can be a year-round, daily activity, as long as I’m dressed for it. I mean there’s no such thing as “bad” weather right? Just “bad” clothing.
* I do miss the PNW though. I loved living there. I miss my friends and neighbours; the giant doug-firs; topography; and the Varied Thrushes, Bushtits, and American Dippers.
This morning, after I got back from my morning forest run, I noticed movement in the tops of one of the Douglas-fir trees in our backyard. My first thought was “Crossbills!?” My second thought was “No, it cannot be.” The birds were very backlit, but their behaviour (voraciously eating seeds from the doug-fir cones), body size, flock size, and body placement while feeding all pointed to crossbills. I still wasn’t convinced until I finally saw a good outline of a bill, and it was crossed. It was CRISSCROSSED BILL.
Not thinking I’d have any luck at all getting photographs, I spent several minutes warbler-necking it in my backyard and simply watching them feed way up high. I haven’t had a new yard bird in many many months. In fact, I could not remember which number I was at. Apparently I’m now at bird #87.
The crossbills stuck around for more than 30 minutes, and after enjoying them through my bins for awhile, I thought I’d at least try to get a photo, even if it was a crappy photo that simply showed a bird’s silhouette. I actually wasn’t sure if the sighting would trigger a rare bird alert, and photos are always appreciated for those.
So I went inside and took some photos from my upstairs office window, and a few of them are not awful. Oh, and it’s Global Big Day, so this sighting seems fitting 🙂
I’m still hoping for my first Bullock’s Oriole to visit my yard. I’ve got grape jelly in a feeder, and I have seen this species w/in 5 miles of my house. Somebody also saw one today in Lacamas Park, which is less than 1 mile from my house. I remain optimistic.
Stay tuned for a post about April birding in the Olympic Peninsula!
With the train wreck of events that are and have been taking place these past several months, I have not been impelled to write or post. So, what brings me back?
I’m a volunteer editor for the Oregon Birding Association, and our fall journal was just published! I include a URL to my blog in my “Letter from the Editor”, so I may have visitors. What do you do when you visit somebody’s blog and they have not updated it in several months? You probably never visit again. So … I wanted to light a small fire under my blog because my blog is about birding and I am still always birding. It’s not like I don’t have content and photos to share. I could probably post daily.
Let’s start with some recent photos. I’m in Ontario, Canada, now visiting my family, so here are some of the highlights from this trip so far : ) Note that this post is a bit “drafty” because I don’t have strong enough WiFi here to slave over this.
In light of recent events keeping us at or close to home, starting on March 24, 2020, I started a quarantine yard list as part of a challenge kicked off by 5MR Jen. Even though no cloud of any sort has truly lifted (e.g., we are still staying close to home), that yard challenge ended yesterday, April 30, 2020.
I ended with 62 species of birds on my quarantine yard list and a total ongoing yard count of 80 species. I even managed to summon a Western Tanager yesterday morning, species #80 for my yard and my final species for this yard challenge! I found it in the lower part of the canopy in one of our Doug-fir trees.
This was a rewarding time of the year to participate in this challenge because bird species are coming and going. During this window of time, I said goodbye to the Dark-eyed Juncos and Varied Thrushes and hello to the Black-headed Grosbeaks, Ospreys, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
What follows are some yard bird photos from this final week. My quarantine yard list is at the end of this blog post. The ongoing yard list continues though! And May 9 is the eBird Global Big Day!
Our yard continues to yield new “quarantine” bird species almost every day. A few of these have been new yard species, too. We have been at this location for almost 1 year.
Yesterday on the way back from my daily morning coffee walk around my neighborhood, I saw a Chipping Sparrow in our next-door neighbour’s flowering dogwood tree. I slowly walked past the tree and onto our driveway. Chipper was still in the tree! Bam! Yard bird #78! Sadly I have no photograph of Chipper because I don’t bring such luxuries as a camera on my morning coffee walk. I’m fresh out of bed and usually in my PJs.
Last weekend, a new and quite surprising yard bird, a Greater Yellowlegs, flew along Lacamas Creek and wadded around long enough for me to get a few terrible photos from my office window.
Other highlights from this past week included my yard’s second Lincoln’s Sparrow and yard’s first Brown-headed Cowbird.
As of yesterday, my total yard count is at 79 species and my quarantine list is at 58 species.
Here is a photo blog update of some of the birdy highlights, new and old, from our yard over the past week and a half.
Quarantined birding for me isn’t much different from non-quarantined birding. We live on a bluff overlooking a creek, river, and ash-dominated floodplain, and I’ve worked from home full-time, in this location, for nearly 1 year. It’s backyard birding as usual except that now it’s spring, so the migrants are passing through (north [or up]) and the residents are setting up territories and building nests.
On March 24, 5MR Jen kicked off a yard challenge. This generally means counting birds you see or hear in or from your yard. Because I work from home, this feels like one very long birding point count, but with long, nighttime breaks for sleep and many breaks during the day for cheese and crackers (many).
I’ve been participating in this yard challenge since March 24. My office window faces our backyard and my feeders. During the day, I catch what I can while I’m working. After work, I sit outside and catch the late afternoon/evening bird activity.
As of today, April 14, my yard challenge list since March 24 is 47 species.
Here’s a selection of yard birds that I was able to capture with my pretty basic camera. Check out my YouTube channel for videos of a Varied Thrush and a Fox Sparrow.
Last month, I put on my snowbird training wheels for the second time and flew to Fort Myers, Florida, to visit my snowbird parents and to, of course, bird. This year’s trip doesn’t necessarily top last year’s trip because last year’s trip resulted in a waterfall of lifers. This year’s trip did involve the following:
Visiting some of my favourite birding spots
Visiting some new birding spots
Complaining about the humidity
Enjoying the ubiquitous serenade of the Northern Mockingbird
We no longer live 1 hour from the coast. It’s more like 2 hours now, so we have yet to make the trip since we moved north. In late January, we decided to head to Cannon Beach, the birthplace of our PNW love.
We started (birding of course) at Ecola State Park, which was a new stop for both of us. It was mostly be accident. When we entered the town of Cannon Beach, we turned right at some point, then drove down a very long road through an enchanting forest to Ecola State Park.
This park is breathtaking, and I’m happy that it’s the closest part of the coast to our house.
I need to visit the coast more often because my shorebird ID needs some work. Almost every time I see shorebirds, it’s like I’m starting over in bird ID. I guess that keeps things interesting, and I’m glad I have a decent camera that allows me to bring home bird ID homework.
Go ahead and roll your eyes at me. I’ll give you a few minutes. Don’t run out of eye rolls though, because once I define this marvelous abbreviation for you, you’ll be back at it again.
PPP = the Philomath Poo Ponds, aka the Philomath Sewage Ponds.
Note: Access to these ponds is restricted! You need to have a permit, which is available free of charge from the Philomath Public Works Department.
It’s been several months since I’ve birded the PPP because it’s now more than 2 hours away. But, enter the Willamette Valley Birding Symposium in Corvallis, plus a visit from my birding sister Lindsay, and I’m back down in arguably the best birding area in Oregon (IMHO). The symposium was on the Saturday, and we birded on Sunday. We planned on birding the PPP and Finley, but hitting both in 1 day is difficult when the sun sets at 4:30-ish and you’ve slept in and had a lazy morning birding your AirBNB property.
I ventured out my front door today to find the American Dippers that are regulars, at least for now, above and below the Lower Falls in Lacamas Regional Park.
The streamflow in the creek today was fast, and as soon as I got to the bridge, I found one dipper, dipping and bobbing on a big mossy rock on the side of the creek. The water was rough today, but Dipper took to the air and masterfully dived into the creek and returned to the mossy rock seconds later with a tasty treat. I was close enough today to get a video capturing the full dipper experience (FDE)! It’s short and worth it! Check is out at the following link, especially if you’ve never seen the FDE: https://youtu.be/4VwPwQJws_g