Things are really slow birding-wise right now with some of the winter birds gone (haven’t seen Common Redpolls for a few days) and just a few early arrivals. We’re seeing some Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and a few Killdeer but it will be a few weeks until water opens up more and we get more activity. So, not expecting much this morning, I headed out with the dog in the truck to check out a few of the back roads. We had an inch or two of snow last night and the temperature was in the 20’s — nice morning for January but not as welcome, to some of us, in mid-March.
It was early Saturday morning — things just waking up — when I drove into downtown Montpelier. I noted a swirl of a dozen rock pigeons and then saw a raptor cruising along, having probably made a pass at them. Big, long tail, easy wing-strokes, and a brief look as it headed west. I also had to dodge a sidewalk snowplow and city sand truck but the look and the Jizz* told me — Cooper’s Hawk. I snaked my way up State Street, hoping to see it perched, but no luck. I pulled over, entered it into Birdlog on my iPhone, and had a new County bird for the year.
Encouraged by such a great start, I headed out on some back roads that we often cruise on local bird outings. At one reliable spot, I saw a flash of red and sure enough, a pair of Northern Cardinals brightened the dull morning scene. I saw all the normal suspects (blue jays, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and crows) and then moved off to a pull-off along the Winooski River where Canada Geese and four Hooded Mergansers plied the icy waters. Here’s one of the few pictures I took:
Returning on the rut-frozen River Road, I picked up a couple of Common Grackles – a species that I had yet to see this year — and drove home hoping to spot a Red-tailed Hawk. Stopping to pick up coffee and a killer scone at Birchgrove Baking (to bring home to share with Mary) made a nice end to a nice outing.
*Jizz is a term used by birders to describe the overall impression or appearance of a bird garnered from such features as shape, posture, flying style or other habitual movements, size and colouration combined with voice, habitat and location.