A Look Back at Winter Birding

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By Lindsay VanMieghem

Recently, at the ERC office, we have welcomed back the birds that migrated for the winter as they return to our feeders and trees. Their noisy chatter has given us hope that spring really is right around the corner. However, we have been enjoying the winter birds that live in our valley all winter long. One of our favorite ways to explore and appreciate the winter wonderland that we live in, is our Winter Birding Walks with Poo Wright-Pulliam.

We recently wrapped up our final Winter Birding Walk of the season, led by the very experienced birder, Poo Wright- Pulliam. We had walks in Ketchum, Hailey, and at The Nature Conservancy’s Silver Creek Preserve. It was amazing to see the similarities and differences in the birds that we saw just by traveling up and down the valley. It is proof that you don’t have to go far to see an incredible variety of birds.

A highlight from our walk around Ketchum was seeing a Brown Creeper making its way up a tree looking for bugs to eat. At Silver Creek Preserve, there was a bevy of 114 Trumpeter Swans resting in a field. While walking through the Wood River Land Trust’s Draper Preserve in Hailey, we saw an immature Bald Eagle soaring high above us.

But my favorite memory from our bird walks was at Silver Creek Preserve. While walking through the willows, one member of our group spotted a pair of big yellow eyes looking back at her through her binoculars. There was a Great Horned Owl camouflaged in the willows watching us as we walked by. We set up our scope so we could each get a good look at it. This is something I would have normally walked right past, none the wiser, to the amazing creature just feet away from me.

There is no telling what birds you will see on any given day, and that is part of what makes bird watching so exciting.

Since moving to Idaho and working for the ERC, I have been introduced to so many new activities that I have never done before, and birding is one of them. After three birding walks with Poo, I feel like I am a better observer of nature, and I spend more time really paying attention to what is around me and noticing the awe-inspiring wildlife we share this valley with.

Poo often talks about “spark birds,” or birds that sparked an interest in birding and wanting to learn more about birds. For me, my spark bird is the Common Loon. Growing up in Wisconsin and spending every chance I had at our lake house in the north woods, loons have been a bigger part of my life than I realized. Whether it was calling to a distant loon while sitting around a fire, or watching them disappear under the waves on a boat ride, or helping my grandpa make stained glass loons to decorate cabins everywhere, loons have always been there. And even though they may not be a bird I am likely to see here, my spark bird has inspired me to get out and discover what birds do live here.

So the next time you’re outside, look up, you just might find your spark bird!

Keep an eye on our calendar for our upcoming spring and summer programs.

Lindsay VanMieghemA Look Back at Winter Birding