A Low Expectation Saturday Outing

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:

Five geese ignore a male Hoodie paddling through the ice flows on the Winooski River.  photo dickmfield

Five geese ignore a male Hoodie paddling through the ice flows on the Winooski River. photo by dickmfield

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.

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