Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter Visitants Arrive in Ely, the Piragis Northwoods Birding Chronicles

Lots of critters leave Ely for the winter and head “south”. These include summer home residents, snow birds, tourists, paddlers and plenty of real birds.  Believe it or not some birds come south to spend the winter in Ely!
Photo by Steve Schon
During October some of the first winter visitants to arrive are the beautiful Bohemian Waxwings.  They replace their smaller cousins the Cedar Waxwings who spend their summers here and then head south to warmer climes during the winter months.  They feed on the mountain ash trees both ornamental and native as well as crab apples trees planted in Ely.
Photo by Steve Piragis
By November we start to hear the quiet call notes of Pine Grosbeaks.  They have nested north of us in Canada and arrive in Ely to feast on the seeds of pine and deciduous trees.
Photo by Steve Piragis
They also visit bird feeders in our area gorging themselves on black oil sunflower seeds and along with the Evening Grosbeaks that can be found anytime in Ely make for a colorful addition to the snowy background.
Photo by Steve Piragis
One of our smallest visitors are the Common Redpoll and their rare cousin the Hoary Redpoll.  They can be seen eating catkins in our deciduous trees as well as gleaning seeds from shrubs.  The also visit bird feeders and dive right in among the bigger Grosbeaks.  The common Redpoll has been shown to be one of the hardiest species as far as withstanding cold temperatures and they manage to survive Ely winters that often reach -40 degrees.

Lucky birders may also get a glimpse of either the Red or White-winged Crossbill.  Although these species are nomadic and may be seen almost any month, they are much more likely in the winter.  Their specialized bills are adapted to efficiently extracting seeds from pine and spruce cones.  Add to these visitors our permanent residents such as Ruffed Grouse, Common Ravens, Blue and Gray Jays, Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches, and several Woodpeckers to name a few and you can see that Ely is far from bird poor in the winter.

What we lack in numbers we make up for with interesting, beautiful, and hardy species.

What is your favorite winter bird?  What is the rarest bird to visit your hometown this time of year?  Let us know!

Steve Schon

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