Northern Pygmy Owl

We had heard the tooting of the Northern Pygmy Owl in the woods near us in previous winters but had little luck seeing one. This year our luck changed. These small owls are only about 6.5 inches long and perch many in conifer trees. Their main prey are small songbirds and unlike many owls hunt mainly in the day. We watched this bird for quite awhile before they slowly turned their head and gave us a look only an owl can give seemingly saying “hey move along I’m hunting here”.

Chickadee’s of the forest beware.


Thus far bird action around the neighborhood was relatively quiet and calm with with numerous chickadees and just a handful of other sprinkled in for variety. Well, last week that all changed as a large flock of Pine Siskin’s moved in. When the flock decides to visit the bird feeder it is quite a sight, a veritable frenzy of activity in some instances, and to say the feeder is mobbed might be an understatement.

Although they can also be calm and charming as was this fellow above.

This nomadic finch ranges widely and erratically across the continent each winter in response to seed crops. Better suited to clinging to branch tips than to hopping along the ground, these brown-streaked acrobats flash yellow wing markings as they flutter while feeding or as they explode into flight.

Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls frequent our area in the winter each year but seeing them seems a hit or miss proposition as they move around quite a bit. This winter we got lucky and had a few hanging around the neighborhood for a couple of days in a big mixed flock of finch species.

During winter, some Common Redpolls tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. Tunnels may be more than a foot long and 4 inches under the insulating snow.

Common Redpolls can survive temperatures of –65 degrees Fahrenheit. A study in Alaska found Redpolls put on about 31 percent more plumage by weight in November than they did in July.

Where’s Hatchmo?

Well, we can all agree 2021 has been a strange and unordinary year in many respects and one event that has us scratching our heads and has just turned the strange-o-meter up to 11 is the absence of Hatchmo this winter.

As long as we can remember Red-Breasted Nuthatches have been a neighborhood fixture. Not just in winter but all year long. Their honking a constant reminder that someone is out there in the trees and their visits to the feeders in winter are sure to bring a smile to our faces when the sun is low and temperatures are cold. Perhaps they have all gotten together and moved south this year or perhaps they have just moved to the next valley over.

Whatever the reason it has left of scratching your heads, searching the web for explanations and feeling just a little lonely this winter.

So if you see Hatchmo tell them the feeders are full and it’s OK to come home.

Pelagic Cormorant

Watching, listening and right at home this Pelagic Cormorant enjoys a sunny winters afternoon.

Among the cormorants of North America’s Pacific Coast, the Pelagic is a small and slender species that flies with a thin, straight neck often compared to a broomstick. Breeding adults are black with glossy purple-green highlights. They have a coral-red throat patch and neat white patches on the flanks. They nest on coastal cliffs and forage in rocky water, rarely traveling far from shore despite their name.

A Harriers Flight

Elegant and precise are words that always seem to come to mind when watching Northern Harriers fly the fields in search of a meal. The Northern Harrier is a very distinct looking hawk hawk with their owl-like face and easily identifiable in flight by a white patch at the base of their tails.

Northern Harriers are the most owl-like of hawks (though they’re not related to owls). They rely on hearing as well as vision to capture prey. The disk-shaped face looks and functions much like an owl’s, with stiff facial feathers helping to direct sound to the ears.

Northern Harriers hunt mostly small mammals and small birds, but they are capable of taking bigger prey like rabbits and ducks. They sometimes subdue larger animals by drowning them.