The past week gave us plenty of unexpected weather in a nutshell. Before we realized it, the heavens opened up with freezing rain, snow (twice no less), and minus double-digit wind chills. This left most of us with surprise, considering we’d been privy to some of the warmest weather that we had seen until seven days ago.

In the meantime, we’d found some of the best rare birds in the county, including a first cycle Thayer’s Iceland Gull, first cycle Glaucous Gull, both Oregon and Pink-sided Dark-eyed Juncos, the continuing Western Grebe, Mountain Bluebird, and Ring-necked Pheasant.

Boomer Lake gave nice views of the Bald Eagle, Ross’s, Greater White-fronted, Snow, and Cackling Goose, Bufflehead, Green-winged Teal, both scaups, Common Goldeneye, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Redhead, Hooded Merganser, dozens of Double-crested Cormorant, Least Sandpiper, Red-shouldered Hawk, White-crowned and Song Sparrow, Rock Pigeon, Red-winged Blackbird, American White Pelican, and several dozen Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, as well as a couple of Bonaparte’s Gulls and Killdeer, Belted Kingfisher, Cedar Waxwing, and American Goldfinch, all listings for the week.

The ducks that we’d all been waiting for also arrived in good numbers like Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Ring-necked and Ruddy Ducks, as well as Lesser Scaup. White-throated Sparrow, Red-shafted Northern Flicker, and Northern Harrier. Pied-billed Grebe numbers also increased, all on Sanborn Lake.

Around Whittenberg Park, we discovered several Pine Siskin, Chipping, Harris’s, and Red Fox Sparrows, which appear to be more common statewide this year. The Rusty Blackbird even made an appearance, which is very out of the ordinary, sometimes not seen for years. This is generally attributed to loss of habitat. 

The OSU Cross Country Course had all the raptors, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel, as well as several songbirds including White-crowned Sparrow. It’s a wonder that none of them saw any harm with all the predators.

At press time, the cold weather might have finally broken, which hopefully, will not hamper our winter visitors. It was good to see the Snow, Ross’s, and Greater White-fronted Geese, as well as the Thayer’s and Glaucous Gulls, all welcome additions to county birding numbers.

Let our hearts be with those individuals in Texas that had to endure all the hardships that they did, and may the unfortunate ones rest in peace. Winter can be a most unfriendly time, especially during these uncommon below-zero wind chill and actual temperature overnights. May it further remind us to check upon our elderly and infirm neighbors from time to time to make certain that they have everything that they require, especially our company.

Keep those feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds, have high fat content suet at the ready, and replenish fresh water or use a birdbath heater to keep it flowing during this time of year. Clean all feeders and water receptacles once a week, and contact your local rehabilitator when necessities arise for sick and injured birds.

Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!

Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and photographer living in Stillwater.

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