Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Go Birding in Winter?

The temperatures are dropping. It may not seem like a great time to spot some fascinating bird activity, but it is. In winter, trees and underbrush are bare, making it easier to observe birds, which are more attracted to feeders now, when insects are fewer. Discovering them in their habitat is a great way to connect with nature, whether you are in the wild, in your backyard or here at the Museum.

With 135 acres of forest surrounding our trails and a wildlife viewing area with water and feeders, the Museum is an ideal place for birdwatchers. Mary Yanalcanlin from the East Cascades Audubon Society says she has spotted hairy woodpeckers (see photo by Paul Bannick), red-breasted sapsuckers, red-breasted nuthatches and mountain chickadees along our trails. She spied a red crossbill through one of our floor-to-ceiling windows.

“This is just a sampling of the great variety here as more birds come down from the mountains, because they like to winter in Bend and go higher up to breed,” she said. One such bird is the dark-eyed Junko, a type of sparrow with a variety of markings and crisp white tail feathers.

The High Desert has a range of habitats, which attract an array of species. Male ducks are getting their breeding plumage, distinctive green heads and their white “necklace” as Yanalcanlin calls it.

“In summer, male ducks look similar to the females: drab brown,” she says. “They don’t need colorful plumage to attract a mate in summer, when they molt.”

Sight is not the only way to discover winged life in our forests. Open your ears. Listening for bird sounds will enrich the experience even more.

Come and discover the fun of backyard birding at 2 pm tomorrow at the Museum with Mary Yanalcanlin of the East Cascades Audubon Society. She’ll give a presentation on the birds of Central Oregon and tell how to identify the birds in your backyard. Afterward, tour the Museum grounds and identify local and migratory birds. In conjunction with the exhibit "The Owl and the Woodpecker: Photographs by Paul Bannick."

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