Saturday, January 31, 2009

Winter in the boreal forest

Manitoba in winter is not a place where a birder can see a lot of species in a day. However, I have always found the boreal forest to be a place of great magic with many secretive residents that, if they are feeling generous, would brighten any birder's day. I've enjoyed a few trips with friends into the boreal forest just east of Winnipeg recently and had some wonderful sightings. These photos were all taken in eastern Manitoba (mostly along Hwy 15 near Elma) in January 2009.

There are at least two Great Gray Owls along Hwy 15 this winter and both appear to be 3+ year old adults (lacking juvenile flight feathers). At least one is banded. This bird was actively hunting and offered the chance for some take-off shots:

Northern Hawk Owls have been more common than Great Grays this year. Such a thrill to be able to see four or five of them in a day, though not as many as three winters ago when I enjoyed seeing as many as 24 in one day. I haven't had many great photo ops this winter but here's a sampling:

Winter finches are an extraodinary burst of colour in the boreal winter. When it is <-30°C it always amazes me that birds can look as bright as these Evening Grosbeaks and Pine Grosbeaks (females first):

There have been a few flocks of White-winged Crossbill around this year and they are always a thrill to watch when you can find them. See if you can spot all seven crossbills in this photo.

This photo is cropped to show the feeding behaviour with the crossed mandibles.

I found the behaviour of this male Downy Woodpecker interesting, feeding on a gall just 30cm above the snow.

I have already been lucky enough to see both Black-backed Woodpecker and American Three-toed Woodpecker this year. Here's a look at a male Black-backed:

For more photos of boreal birds, you can alwys visit me at my website:

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