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Winter

Bird Tracks in the Snow

Look for the stories birds tell with their tracks in the snow. A crow swaggers, leaving right-and-left steps much as a walking human would. Juncos under a birdfeeder leave a hopping pattern of tiny footprints in side-by-side pairs. Look for beak marks, where a bird picked up a choice morsel or... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Snowy Owls Are Here!

In some years, great numbers of Snowy Owls come south from the Arctic to reside in fields, farmlands, and shorelines. In the past, it was believed that population crashes of lemmings on the breeding grounds caused many owls to come south. But their movements are more complex and unpredictable... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

Birds on a Cold Night

During December, birds spend the long, cold nights in a protected place, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators. Small forest birds, such as nuthatches and creepers, may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Birds like this male Mallard fluff up their feathers for... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Ptarmigan in Winter

Both the Willow Ptarmigan and these White-tailed Ptarmigan, feathered mostly brown in summer, are utterly transfigured by an autumn molt. As snow begins to mantle their world, both species, now all white, blend in superbly. But the ptarmigan pulls another trick. It adds dense white feathering on... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Why Birds Stand on One Leg

Birds' legs have an adaptation called "rete mirabile" that minimizes heat loss. The arteries that transport warm blood into the legs lie in contact with the veins that return colder blood to the bird's heart. The arteries warm the veins. Because the veins also cool the arteries, the bird’s feet... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Winter Field Notes - Reflections by Heather Murphy

Heather Murphy, a naturalist, watches for birds with the trained eye of a wildlife biologist, then makes a few field notes. From her journal: "I hear tzeet-tzeet-tzeet. Fast movement. Ah, a tiny kinglet. Which kinglet? Hm.m.m. No leaves anymore, so I easily see an olive-green back. And through my... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  reflection

Morning in Oaxaca

A winter morning in Oaxaca, Mexico—a great time to visit old friends who spent the summer in the United States. Yellow-rumped Warblers and Western Tanagers—northern summer-nesters that winter in western Mexico—mingle with resident Berylline Hummingbirds, Gray Silky-Flycatchers, and this Crescent... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  migration

Bird of the Year, From Lyanda Haupt

Many birders play a New Year's game called "Bird of the Year." The first bird you see on January 1st becomes your theme bird for that year—one to bless your perspective, your imagination, your spirit. Author Lyanda Haupt was at first disappointed with her "bird of the year," a European Starling.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, reflection

A Swirl of Snow Geese

Snow Geese nest from far northeastern Russia to Greenland, in the arctic and subarctic. They winter in large flocks on the deltas of rivers in northwestern Washington, areas along the Eastern Seaboard, and throughout the Mississippi Flyway. Watching Snow Geese in flight, Barry Lopez described... read more »

RELATED
Topics & Themes:  reflection

Basalt as Shelter

As the winter sun sinks over the Coulee Lakes, hundreds of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches suddenly appear, an undulating cloud that swarms into the upper levels of the basalt cliffs. The finches nest high in the mountains in summer, and roam the countryside in large flocks in winter. Gray-crowned Rosy... read more »

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