January is for the birds


Once New Year’s Day passes, it's as if a gust of wind blows in and clears away all the tinsel overnight. Indoors becomes austere as well, shed of the holiday silver and gold. The outdoor world reveals what it’s been for a month, although we were too merry to notice: grey, brown, unadorned. That’s when my photography goes to the birds. The dead deck outside my window with its joyless flowerpots full of brown leaves becomes center stage with performances enacted daily. The juncos warm up for the opening act - the purple finches - that in turn flutter to the trees when the resident cardinal takes the spotlight alone. Guest appearances keep things lively with the occasional goldfinch swooping in and just when I thought the show could no longer surprise me, it snows and a red-bellied woodpecker lands on the railing with snowflakes on his beak. In between winter weather fronts, I also take much-needed days away from the neighborhood and into the woods to my favorite eagle watching haunts. Living on the Mississippi flyway as I do, eagle viewing is a rite of winter. A testament to our conservation success, I find more eagles farther inland – and in more resident pairs – every year. Waterfowl fill the half-frozen sloughs and ponds along the big rivers as graceful trumpeter swans alight upon the icy water. Last January I stood on a Mississippi River trail when hundreds of white pelicans arose, flapping close above me, delighting a nearby class of school kids on a science field trip. True, there are far more birds around in May. I can unfold a lawn chair in my local park and see a kaleidoscope of bright feathers as I sip my tea. But here’s a hot cocoa toast to the birds of January, who color my world when nature is resting unadorned. I call his photograph One in a Million. Because I never get a shot of an eagle that isn’t back-lit and in a dead tree.

Copyright 2019 RC

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