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My Life’s Birds: #94-95

June 11, 2008
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October 22, 1993 – Christian Co, Mo – If your area is anything like North Carolina these days, summer is coming on in a big way. A recent heat wave has pushed temperatures this week up towards 100 degrees around here, with little relief on the horizon. What better way, then, to put the merciless sun out of your mind, then to think on autumn’s past. As the days slowly get colder and shorter and birds we have the privilege of seeing only half the year begin to arrive.

Back in Missouri, the calender was often in late October before we’d begin to note the residents of winter, often led by the off-timbre song of the White-throated Sparrow. In Missouri, and in North Carolina now too, it would happen all at once. Once day nothing, the next morning, weedy fields bursting with Old Sam Peabodies or Sweet Sweet Canadas or, as the globally minded Roger Tory Peterson puts it, several clear pensive whistles. Having ridden overnight on the first big cold front of the season, they arrive all at once, singing unabated throughout the winter and crowding beneath the sunflower feeder and on the millet platform we’d put up in expectation of their arrival.

As it turned out, 1993 was a particularly good year to begin noting the winter birds. That very same day, along with the white-throats arrived a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches at our feeders. While their white-breasted cousins were regular year-rounders in the Ozarks, the arrival of this second species is not at all regular. The first year I began listing birds corresponded with an irruption year for northern birds into southern Missouri, and many feeders across the area hosted Red-breasted Nuthatches that year.

That winter remained the only time I’d seen that species until just this last September when I came across a single bird on a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan. 15 years, some of which I admittedly didn’t look very hard, is far too long to go between sightings. The next one won’t be nearly as long…

photos from wikipedia

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