Cold-weather Birds

I’ve often said that the best birding days around the pond are also the coldest. That may be related to another phenomenon I’ve noticed: when it gets really cold, the Hooded Mergansers appear on the pond.

Yesterday we had one of those cold mornings that bring out so many birds. With temperatures in the upper teens, it wasn’t surprising to see the Mergansers. But yesterday was so cold we had two pairs of Hooded Mergansers. In addition, a pair of Ring-necked Ducks showed up. To complete the set of birds found near water, I encountered Canada Geese, Mallards, a Kingfisher, and an Eastern Phoebe.

Normally the Mergansers are quite skittish and immediately head for the opposite side of the pond when anyone approaches them. The Ring-necked Ducks, on the other hand, weren’t worried about my presence at all. Somehow the Ring-necks had a calming effect on the Mergansers, so they stayed around, next to the dock.

It was hard to focus on the ducks, because there were a number of Kinglets gleaning insects from the shrubs by the dock. First I saw the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, then I noticed several pairs of Golden-crowned Kinglets. One of the males really put on a show for me, showing not just his golden crest, but the red highlights hiding under the crest.

On my way home, I encountered a Hermit Thrush, another species that always seems to appear when it gets bitingly cold. Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like posing for a picture.

All it all, it was one of my best days. I ended up counting 33 species, which ties my daily record.

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