Appreciating the quiet times of birding

It’s a relatively quiet time for birding in my part of the world, as I’m keenly aware every morning I walk the fields and woods of the Mercer Meadows Pole Farm or the nearby locations that I frequent.

It would be different if I lived closer to the Jersey shore, which is teeming with wild birds hanging out in their coastal winter quarters. By comparison, the Delaware River valley an hour’s drive to the west is at its lowest point of activity of the year during these cold, gray weeks in January and February.

Yet there are sights to see and appreciate, such as huge flocks of blackbirds and long strings of snow geese flying overhead. Dark-eyed juncos dart from path to brush as I approach them. Save for the papery tan leaves of the beech trees, most of the woods are bare, affording clear views of the woodpeckers — downy, hairy and red-bellied — tapping and hammering above me.

A male hairy woodpecker stops on a branch just long enough for me to snap a photo.

Yesterday I spotted a pileated woodpecker making an undulating flight across the woods that I undoubtedly would have missed were the canopy full of leaves as it is during most of the year.

In the relative quiet of the woods, what calls and pecks I do hear stand out. Last week as I stopped on a wooden bridge at a crossroads of two main Pole Farm paths, my Merlin app lit up with the cry of red-shouldered hawk.

I looked in vain to find the bird, presumably the one that I’ve seen several days over the past few weeks. I saw no hawk but as I kept looking in the changing directions of the cry, I kept seeing a blue jay.

It slowly occurred to me that what I was hearing was the blue jay imitating the hawk. A short while, after I’d moved a few hundred yards along the trail, the red-shouldered hawk flew overhead.

The bare woods of winter provide new opportunities to observe the avian action, just as they prompt us to anticipate Spring when the warblers arrive and the vireos and thrushes fill the greening trails with song once more.

This red-shouldered hawk has been hanging out at the Mercer Meadows Pole Farm the last few weeks. I’ve named it Shakey for the way it shakes its tail side to side when perching.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

4 thoughts on “Appreciating the quiet times of birding

  1. Birding is always good in NJ. Down here in FL it’s excellent in winter. Lk Apopka is crawling with waterfowl: 5,000 + am. coot, 5,000 + ring-neck ducks, gadwall, shovelers, blue-winged teal,Merlin, peregrine, no harriers, vermillion flycatcher, painted bunting, bald eagles, & others.

    Liked by 1 person

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