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The Lonely & Quiet Of Winter

I have been surveying the same patch for on and off for the last three years in southern Minnesota. I really enjoy watching how the patch changes during the seasons: seeing when certain birds arrive, listening to all the birds on territory, noticing when certain birds leave and when winter birds arrive.

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But every December I’m always surprised at how lonely I find myself during my many hours in the field. Oh sure there’s still some crows and bluejays around and there are the bald eagles which I’m watching for but it’s still so quiet compared to what it had been the several months previous.

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This year I’m getting a bonus. I’ve had such delights as the above common redpolls and a few white-winged crossbills too. And they’re large flocks of Lapland longspurs all around and they’re now being joined by large flocks of snow buntings. But these birds are predator wary and not like feeder birds. However, these birds are different. They are wary and distrustful of someone watching them. It’s not like the birds that were singing on territory that were so focused on proving that they were the best male for breeding. These birds are constantly on the alert for predators. I don’t blame them, I’ve seen plenty of merlins, northern harriers and Cooper’s hawks around here even make me worry for their safety.

But combined with the wind, these fields are now a lonely place.

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