I always enjoy birding in January and February because I get to start a new year bird list, and I’m anxious to see what I’m lucky enough to find! Suddenly, even birds I see in my backyard are exciting. I can set up a feeder and it won’t be long before Cardinals and Blue Jays are regular visitors.
Next, I put suet or mixed nuts on a platform feeder and start seeing Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and Hairy Woodpeckers. Chickadees, Goldfinches, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Red-breasted Nuthatches seem to enjoy seed, suet and mixed tree nuts. The nuts keep them busy as they flyback and forth, grab a nut and then crack it against nearby trees.
Remember to look for other birds in the background, such as Brown Creepers and several species of wintering sparrow species, including White-throated, Harris, American Tree, and Spotted Towhees. They like to clean up the seed others leave behind. An exciting 2021 prospect for avid birders is a chance to see a rare finch. This winter has brought an irregular irruption of birds that are more common to the North, and we hope to see: Red Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Purple Finch, Evening Grosbeak, and Pine Grosbeak in higher than normal numbers. These finches are known to be highly nomadic, and good places to watch for them include: bird feeders, parks with box elder seeds, and cemeteries with large-mixed pines full of cones. A good cemetery to bird locally is Forest Lawn.
While there, watch for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Pine Siskins. If the Purple Finch still evades your new year list, try Fontenelle Forest, especially near the Wetlands, Child’s Hollow and the Krimlovsky Tract (at Neale Woods). Need an excuse to bird further out? Try Pawnee Lake near Lincoln.
Another winter favorite is the Long-eared Owl, often spotted at reservoirs, such as Prairie Queen, Lake Cunningham, and Summit Lake. Check thick groves of cedars and pines for owls and owl pellets from the mice/voles they’ve eaten. If you’re lucky, you may find or hear a Saw-whet Owl. While at these locations, I often see: White-throated Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows and, if lucky, a Spotted Towhee. Look for piles of wood, or “sparrow piles” as birders call them, to see if you can find other sparrows. I also enjoy birding from my car during these months–it is much warmer. I look for Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, Rough-legged Hawks, Merlins (a species of falcon), and Prairie Falcons.
Another bird to find in winter is the Snow Bunting. They may be spotted in country fields, but also frequent rocky shores like Pawnee Lake near Lincoln and Lake Babcock near Columbus. I hope this information helps you find birds for your new 2021 list, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the e-Bird mobile dashboard for birding hot spots, species observed, and rare birds recently found. It is a great way to find birds missing from your list and to share what you have found with others!