December 21st, 2018: Visiting some family and wandering around suburbia
Not much in the way of exciting birding this week. It’s pretty cold here in the suburbs north of Chicago.
Of course, there’s the usual winter activity. In my walks around the neighbourhood, I was seeing Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, European Starling, American Robin, House Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Dark-eyed Junco, and Northern Cardinal pretty much every day.
At the east side there’s always Lake Michigan. But this time of year, the wind is awfully cold coming off the lake. Also, there is usually a lot of wind, so lake-watching tends not to be very fruitful.
When there are birds out there, it’s usually scaup or Red-breasted Merganser. Today it was the latter and I was happy to see them in close. A flock of 25 or so in a loose raft, diving for their fish, crustaceans (and sometimes frogs and insects). I think it’s pretty cool that they were one of the species described by Linneaus in Systema Naturae in 1758. Their Latin name is Mergus serrator because of their “sawbill.”
Also, they look ridiculous. Beautiful, but ridiculous. Can we agree on that? Their “hair” is always a mess and they seem to have this stunned look about them as they gracefully dive for their prey and glide across the surface. Pictures of impossibly unkempt poise.
They’re birds we see a lot in North America, but they’re also easy to appreciate. And a nice highlight for this week.