That’s not the only bird that’s unexpected this time of year that I’ve seen this winter. There are eight or nine mourning doves in the area. I see them on the power line along the road in front of my house often. From there they fly down to the same feeder the cowbird was on or, more often, to the ground beneath the feeder.
At some friends’ home a few days ago, again when the temperature outside was below freezing, we were sitting inside, visiting and looking out through a big front window. We were watching birds too, as they flew about the trees in their yard and to a number of bird feeders they have and to the ground below the feeders. There we saw two more birds I associate with warmer weather, a song sparrow and a Carolina wren.
When walking in a woods with his dogs recently, my older son told me he saw not one, but a flock of robins. Someone called a few days ago and told me that morning he had seen a bluebird. Three different people have told me they heard sandhill cranes this month, looked up, and saw a flock of cranes flying over.
On the other hand, when I went for a walk through a woods in a nature preserve not long ago I didn’t see a single bird. Nor did I hear a bird, not even that omnipresent bird of the woods, a downy woodpecker. I whistled, that high, two-note whistle of that other woodland sprite, the black-capped chickadee, but no chickadee answered.
I went for a drive through the country a few days ago. I often drive through the country but this time I had a friend and we were specifically looking for birds. I drove slow. I stopped often. We went on a road along a river. We went through woodlands. We went out past fields including some where there was no shelter, cultivated and harvested fields where there were no trees, no brush, not even any tall grass or weeds.
Surprisingly, it was out in the open where we saw the only birds we saw that day. We saw two kestrels, not together, one perched on a power line beside the road, the other flying near a power line. And we saw a flock of starlings, forty or fifty of them I guessed. Some were on the power line by the road, some were in the field below, others were flying down from the power line or up to the power line.
I expected to see at least one red-tailed hawk perched on a power line pole or the crossarm on a pole or on a power line or in a tree at the edge of a woods. But we did not. I hoped to see a rough-legged hawk, a winter visitor from farther north that I see some winters. But not this winter, at least not yet.
I expected to see a few horned larks when we drove past open fields. We did not. I hoped to see a flock of snow buntings. These, however, are erratic, unpredictable winter visitors to northern Indiana. I haven’t seen any in several years though I did have someone call and tell me he had seen a flock not far from where I live a few years ago.
Winter birding is always hit or miss. But so is spring and summer and fall. That’s part of the fun of bird watching.