Observing winter birds of Southern Ontario, western NY, and Michigan while hiking with our dog
We are in deep freeze. Are the birds going to die?
On a chilly winter morning of January, I was carrying a heavy backpack with camera, lenses, and hiking paraphernalia. K2, the Great white dog, was wearing his doggy backpack that contained his water, food and other stuff. Our objective: – hike as far as we can go and take pictures of the landscape as much as I can. It got so chilly that in order to take any shots without freezing my fingers, I had to wear inner liners on my hands and then wear over them heavy trekking mittens containing warming gel at the tips (my own technique for winter photography).
As the snow covered trail headed toward a forested area, K2 and I stopped in our tracks in utter bewilderment for both of us were hearing loud chirruping of different birds. Birds – and so many of them – and in this bone chilling weather – what a treat. I started looking for birds and observed northern Cardinals, black capped chickadees, American goldfinches, mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, house sparrows, fish crows, while a lonely red-tailed hawk patrolled the sky.
While hiking with K2 over last 4 years now, I have found that there are some daredevil birds that are not migrating south anymore and are thriving in frigid winter temperatures. This could be because the winters are not as harsh as they used to be in the past (except for 2013-14 and 2014-15 winters). However, I think it is probably more because of the availability of high nutrition food that people are putting in their backyards that is keeping them here. Birds migrate south to find better sources of food. With ample food available in the cities, towns, hamlets, and villages all year round, there is no need for these birds to migrate.
Some other birds that I was already aware winter in southern Ontario are ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, mallards, and Canada geese. I have recently seen common mergansers (in January 2016) on credit river, but I am not sure if they are regular winter residents.
I am still trying to locate and take pictures of other winter birds that are winter residents - evening grosbeak, white-breasted nuthatch, common redpoll, cedar waxwing, and dark-eyed junco.
Here are some shots that I took of these courageous birds that have decided to give us their delightful company during winters. Please enjoy
Map of southern Ontario, Western NY, Michigan
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