We're less that 36 hours into the new year, and I have already seen 17 species of birds. I've never kept track of New Year's birds before, but after the Christmas Bird Count I'm in more of a recordkeeping mode these days. I don't know, but I think seventeen's a pretty good number considering I was right at home most of the day.
I can't remember which bird I saw first at the feeder in the morning; a black capped chickadee would be a likely guess, but I think I remember seeing a red breasted nuthatch at the suet feeder in the early morning light. White breasted nuthatches and American goldfinches showed up early, then a large flock of pine siskins, perhaps thirty individuals, took over. I think the heavy snow must have brought them here because I haven't seen that many at one time yet this year. Several of them hit the windows, but none too hard, and I had to free one that somehow got stuck inside the feeder. Both downy and hairy woodpeckers took turns at the suet, and a blue jay hung around but didn't come to the feeder. The other feeder bird for the day was a single English (house) sparrow; surprisingly, this one gave me the biggest identification trouble because I'm not used to seeing them alone, eating at the feeder.
It was still eary in the day when, as I was watching the feeder, I saw a large form soaring behind the white pines. I looked up just in time to see the white head and tail of a bald eagle. Those of you who are familiar with this blog have probably figured out that whenever I see a bald eagle, I consider it no less than a blessing. On New Year's Day, it is an extra special sign! Later I saw an eagle, probably the same one, perched in a large old spruce on the other side of the creek.
The most unexpected, amazing sighting came in the afternoon when I was getting ready to drive to Calvin's friend's house to pick him up. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the flock of chickadees that had been hanging around the feeder suddenly scatter. A large bird came swooping over the feeder at high speed, then perched in a pine in the woods behind the feeder. I grabbed the binoculars just in time to get a good look at an adult Cooper's hawk. I very rarely see this species here, but maybe I've just never been around at the right moment.
On the way to Calvin's friend's house I added crows and ravens to my mental list. I half expected to see a rough legged hawk somewhere along the way, and I was not disappointed. Then I was pleasantly surprised to get a good look at a northern goshawk. As I passed through town and started heading south towards home, I watched the sun set over an open bog where I have seen a northern shrike before. I was just thinking it would be a good end to my day to see a shrike, when I sighted a bird perched in a tree top, which took off in a very rapid flight. How shrike-like! It landed in another tree top, and I stopped in the middle of the road (obviously not a busy road) and got a positive ID on a northern shrike, with a flock of common redpolls flying around it no less!
All in all, my first unofficial New Year's Day bird count was satisfying. Oh yeah, I did see one other species, actually five more if you count chickens, domestic geese, guinea fowl, and one domestic duck. The bird, sighted coming out of the oven, cooked according to Floridacracker's recipe, was a domestic turkey. But I won't count it, since there's barely any recognizable evidence left!