On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Well, we got 3 new OTR submissions this week, so we have enough posts for this week. We start with Albatrossity, of course! Then TKH, knally, Steve from Mendocino and cope! Big thanks to those who sent pictures in.
Hoping to see more submissions this weekend! Still looking for Christmas / holiday pics from when we were little, so please send those in. I guess we’ll just have one week of that this year instead of two. (assuming we get some pics!)
I have put up 865 On the Road posts since I started doing this in April of 2020, after we lost Alain.
Not only are there fewer bird species, fewer colors, and fewer hours of daylight, but the winter season also means (at least for this photographer) that there are some days where going outside doesn’t sound like much fun. Feeder-watching may fill some of that time for a while, and sunny warmer days will still happen. But the slower pace of wintertime here, bird-wise and photographer-wise, might be obvious for a while. Settle in and sit a spell.
Bald Eagles (Haliaetus leucocephalus) are a big draw for birdwatchers here; local birdwatching groups stage “Eagle Days” at many of the local reservoirs in mid-winter. Nevertheless, getting close to one of these magnificent raptors is a challenge. I was lucky to find this one, sleeping off a late breakfast, in a tree limb right over a dirt road. It really didn’t want to move, so I got some closeups. As the kids say, I was today years old when I learned that the white head feathers of a Bald Eagle have a fine black shaft down the center of each one! Click here for larger image.
Late November also brings a smattering of Rough-legged Hawks (Buteo lagopus) to Flyover Country. These birds of the Far North are built for winter, and wind. Hovering daintily over a pasture, this hawk epitomizes winter, at least in my eyes. Click here for larger image.
We had a lot of pictures of Red-tailed Hawks last week, so some of you might be bored with them. But this one is special. As you can see, it is banded. This is the third winter that I have seen this bird, and I was there when it was banded in 2021. Welcome back, pal. Click here for larger image.
No winter on the prairies would be complete without sighting at least one Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus). And even better is finding one that will pose for you, showing off that cute Death Parrot gaze. Click here for larger image.
Not a raptor, but still a predator, this Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) seems to have found a freeze-fried grasshopper. We had several sub-freezing nights prior to this sighting, so this bird had to rely on its very sharp vision to find this immobile critter in the roadside cover. Click here for larger image.
Herds of large edible creatures used to roam the prairies, and they still do. This flock of Wild Turkeys (Mealagris gallopavo) numbered at least 80, and it was quite a spectacle to watch them trot off under the watchful eyes of those 5 big toms. Click here for larger image.
A few weeks back I shared a picture of a meadowlark with a very subdued color palette, where the bright yellow and black underside was occluded by the grayish tips on those feathers. However, some of our Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta) are pretty colorful at this time of year, for reasons unknown to me. Click here for larger image.
Feeder birds, as mentioned above, are a welcome respite from winter weather. So here are a few of those. One of the more popular visitors to the seed feeders is the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis, aka Snowbird). This is a male, of the Slate-colored subspecies, taking off toward a tempting sunflower seed head. Click here for larger image.
Liquid water, not seeds, can attract other more colorful birds to your backyard. Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are attracted to our yard by the cedar and invasive honeysuckle berry crops, and sometimes come to the water feature for a thirst-quenching sip. It’s nice to see their numbers inching up after they got hammered by the February deep freeze a couple of winters ago. Click here for larger image.
The final bird is a favorite of backyard birdwatchers everywhere. Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) also eat cedar and honeysuckle fruits, and compete with the robins and bluebirds for a spot at the water feature. Click here for larger image.