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January is off to a good start for area birders

With temperatures dropping to minus 15 F or lower, birders need to dress for the weather if they want to be outside in such extreme cold. Here in Northern Indiana it seems to snow almost every day. Despite that, there are a lot of birds to see.
There has been a lot of birding activity during the first 10 days of January. At least one Indiana birder has already reached 100 species. I imagine there will be numerous Ohio birders hitting the century mark this January. Getting out as much as possible in the new year is a good way to counteract the tendency to complain about the cold and lack of sunshine.
I haven’t seen all the Christmas bird count results, but I did hear that Wilmot set a record for their count with 94 species. The Ragersville CBC added at least three new birds for their count including two gulls and a clay-colored sparrow. The weather was quite brutal for some of the counts. I know one birder who walked 13 miles on count day with the temperature barely reaching 10 F.
Short-eared owls have been showing up in Ohio and Indiana. This week I saw three of them along a rural road just before dark. Earlier in the afternoon I had birded the Pigeon River FWA and again was treated to good views of soaring golden eagles and bald eagles. A red-breasted merganser was swimming on the Pigeon River west of Mongo, and nearby a hermit thrush was feeding on berries along with cedar waxwings and a lone robin.
Last Sunday after church I headed out to look for a red-headed woodpecker, not an easy task here this time of year. My first stop was at a traditional nesting area in a wooded swamp north of Goshen. Sure enough a red, black and white beauty was perched on a dead tree, standing out against the monochrome winter marsh. I “pished” a bit to see what else might be around. A song sparrow responded immediately, and a minute later a second bird flew up to check me out. It was a male eastern towhee.
Towhees are not common here, even in the summer. I think this is the first one I’ve seen during the winter, unlike at our former home east of Millersburg where we often had one or two towhees at our feeders all winter.
My favorite bird this month was a falcon that surprised me one afternoon. The bird was perched at the top of a dead tree, and from a distance I thought it would prove to me a kestrel. But as I drove closer, it was clearly a merlin. There was no traffic on the narrow gravel road, so I was able to get out of the car to thoroughly enjoy one of my favorite birds. The merlin paid no attention to me and was still there, puffed up against the cold and light snow flurries, as I headed for home.
Because Lake Michigan has been frozen, I drove west from Goshen to the Prairieview Landfill to look for gulls. The weather was very cold with snowflakes in the air. The gulls were out of sight over the hill of trash when they were on the ground, but often they would take to the air, giving me nice looks.
A lovely glaucous gull soon appeared, easily identified by the all-white plumage and very large size. Later at least one Iceland gull also flew by, among the hundreds of herring and ring-billed gulls. At least 250 crows and over 500 starlings also were in the area. Winter birding can be a lot of fun.
Good birding!
Bruce Glick can be reached at birderbruce@yahoo.com">birderbruce@yahoo.com or at 330-317-7798.

Published: January 12, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180119981