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Category Archives: Coopers Hawk

When I was out walking a few weeks ago I started to think about winter and what signals the start of winter for me. We all know that the official start of winter is December 21st but in reality winter rarely starts on that date

The most obvious signal of winter is the first significant snowfall. This varies widely. One year we had three feet of snow on Halloween and it stayed on the ground until April. I have to admit this one caught everyone off guard. I came home from work and noticed it was snowing a little bit but didn’t think anything of it. When my wife came home she had heard on the news that we were going to get a major blizzard. By that time I had to wade through knee deep snow to get to my tractor, which was at the neighbors house.  The lawnmower was still on the tractor so it had to be removed and the snow blower installed. I managed to get the snow blower installed but had to blow a path to get it back home. On the other hand last winter we really didn’t have a significant snow storm so It didn’t really feel like winter.

Country Road

Country Road

Another signal that winter is just around the corner is birth of the ice wall at Devil’s Punchbowl and along the Red Cedar State Trail. As soon as we get some good cold weather the water dripping down the sandstone cliffs starts to freeze on the moss, rocks, leaves and twigs at the bottom of the wall. If I catch it just right I can get some photographs before the ice becomes a solid wall.

Ice Covered Moss

Ice Covered Moss

The other thing that signals that winter is near is the return of the winter birds. Most of the birds I have around the farm in the winter stay year around. The lone exception is the Dark-eyed Junco. The Dark-eyed Junco leaves in the spring and spends the summer and early fall in far northern Wisconsin. When the Juncos return you know winter can’t be far behind.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

I really know winter is here when the Copper’s Hawks start showing up around my feeders. They are here year around but I never see them around the farm until we get lots of snow and cold weather which brings large numbers of birds to my feeding station. Since they feed on fellow birds they start showing up looking for lunch.

Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk

This is going to be a shorter list than normal because we really didn’t have much of a winter this year. Things started off great in December when we had a nice 6 inch snowfall. All of the outdoor enthusiasts were excited hand started getting their skis and snowmobiles ready for action. The birds started showing up at the feeder and I was optimistic that it was going to be a good year. Unfortunately the weather turned warm and we were without snow for most of the winter. I like to photograph birds during snowstorms but what little snow we received came at mostly at night when it was impossible to photograph. The end of the winter was just as strange. With a little over three weeks to go the weather took a dramatic change. Temperatures hovered around 70 degrees and even reached into the 80’s. All of the Goldfinches disappeared and most of the other birds became scarce.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

The most common bird this winter was the American Goldfinch. In fact, it has been a constant visitor for the last couple of years. I don’t know if they are just lazy or what but they were at the feeder regardless of the weather.

Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee showed up later than normal and there were fewer of them. It wasn’t until the middle of winter that they appeared at the feeder with any regularity. Often when the weather was nice they were nowhere to be found.

Dark-eyed Junco

The Junco’s pattern was similar to the Chickadees. They showed up late and were mostly around when we would get some snow. I have a log that I’ve drilled some holes in so I could put suet it the holes. When I first fill it up the Junco’s seem to like to visit it and try and land on the vertical log.

Downy Woodpecker male

Downy Woodpecker female

Downy woodpeckers have been at the feeder most of the winter. They primarily like to feed on suet. If I have some peanut butter suet available they will usually head for that first. They are the only birds that have continued to be at the feeder throughout the entire winter.

Northern Cardinal female

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinals frequent the feeder late in the day or on days when there is a snowstorm. In the past I’ve had a Coopers Hawk visit the feeder so the Northern Cardinals like to visit when the hawk is not likely to be around. It’s only been during snow storms that they visited in any numbers.

Red-bellied Woodpecker male

Red-bellied Woodpeckers visited the feeder occasionally during the winter months. They usually were feeding at my suet filled log.

House Finch male

House Finches visited the feeder on rare occasions. I was able to capture this male during a snowstorm but the female eluded my photo opportunities.

Mourning Dove

Late in the winter I had a number of Mourning Doves visit the feeder. Normally they are ground feeders and it’s difficult to get a photo of them. This one landed on a pine tree and sat there for quite a while.

RIP – As I mentioned I normally have a Coopers Hawk showing up at my feeder. He turned up early in the winter and then I didn’t see him again. One day I was shoveling off the back step and I found his body. Apparently in his eagerness to capture a bird he hit the sliding glass door.

Coopers Hawk

Northern Cardinal

I came to bird photography accidently several years ago. I started photography as a hobby after I retired. During the winter there wasn’t a lot to photograph. One day during a blizzard I noticed some Northern Cardinals by my bird feeder and tried to photograph them from my front window but they were a little too far away. After watching them for a while I decided that I might be able to get some shots from my basement window which was a little closer to the birds. I grabbed a step ladder and climbed up to the window which was at ground level. I managed this photography of a cardinal which was later published in Birds and Blooms.

It has been a hard winter for the birds. We had an early December Blizzard that dumped over a foot of snow along with high winds. This was followed by rain which created a crust on the snow. During January we saw at least one clipper each week that dumped several inches of snow each on top of what we had. Many of the seeds that the bird world normally feed on were buried in the snow.

Each year is a little different that this year was no exception. When I started writing this blog I hadn’t reflected on how few species of birds I’ve photographed at my feeder. In actuality it has only been ten. I’ve presented the birds in order by the numbers I’ve seen this winter.

American-Goldfinch

American-Goldfinch

American Goldfinch – in an earlier post I called this the year of the American Goldfinch because I had so many of them. One year I didn’t have any but normally I have a few around. This year it was not uncommon to have thirty or forty at my the feeder at any given time. They seem to come in flocks. A few turn up then the rest of them fly in then all of a sudden they are gone.

Black capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee  is the old standby. They show-up late in the fall and at the birdfeeder throughout the winter. They seem to be the hummingbird of winter in constant motion an continuously feeding. I think this year I’ve managed to get more pictures of them than in past years. They are friendly but are in constant motion. By the time you focus on them they have moved to a new location. When they are perched they are constantly in motion eating seeds pinned to the branch they are feeding on.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Juncos are another bird that frequents my feeder although I’ve not seen as many of them this year as in past years and they arrived a little later than usual. I much prefer to photograph the females because they seem to have much more interesting color.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay has been a rare visitor to my bird feeder although I frequently see them flying around in the woods in large numbers. If they did come to the feeder they were so skittish that I was rarely able get a shot of them. For some unknown reason this year I’ve had a large number of them at my bird feeder. It is not uncommon to see six or eight of them at a time. Most of the time they are cleaning up the seeds that fall on the ground and making a racket.

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal female

The Northern Cardinal is a frequent visitor throughout the year but they really stand out during the winter. I love to photograph them during snow storms when they come to the feeder in greater numbers. Their bright reds contrast with the greens of the pine trees and the white of the snow.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers also frequent the feeder during the winter. this year for the first time I build a feeder out of some small logs by drilling holes in the log and filling them with peanut suet.  The log provides a better prop than the wire suet holder that I had been using. Even better they much prefer this type of feeder.

Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk – I have been plagued the past several years by one or more  Coopers Hawks that seems to be hanging around the feeder. At first I thought it was great because I was able to get some nice photographs but I got a little old when they started  scaring away the other birds. It got to the point that the Cardinals would only come to the feeder early in the morning and late in the evening to avoid the hawks. Then just after Christmas the hawks disappeared. All of a sudden the cardinals started returning to the feeder. In February a smaller version of the Coopers Hawk came to the feeder a few times but it only hung around for a few weeks before leaving for good.

Downey Woodpecker female

Downey Woodpecker male

Downey Woodpeckers also come to the feeder generally to feed on suit. They are another bird that really likes my new log feeders.

Hairy Woodpecker male

Hairy Woodpeckers occasionally turn up at the feeder. This photo was taken on a very cold morning. It is the first time I’ve ever seen a birds breath.

Pileated Woodpecker

This year for the first time I’ve had Pileated Woodpeckers at my feeder. In the past I’ve plenty of signs of them in the woods and had seen they fly by the house on occasion but they never stopped at my feeder. One day while reading I noticed a large shadow passing the window and looked up to see a pair of them fly right by the feeder. Several times this winter I have been photographing from my blind when they have stopped to feed. They are very skittish so I haven’t been able to get many photos but I’m hoping they will continue to return.

More winter bird photos can be found on my website.