There is something a little disheartening about the cold, bleak sunless days of winter. I am convinced that the word “dismay” was derived to describe this time of year. During these days, the heart of winter, the leaden skies of January and February can be cold, snowless and gray – dismay - or the absolute antithesis of May. These sullen days can lead to equally sullen moods. SO how to go about combating the midwinter blues? For me and Jackie it’s by doing the same thing we’ll be doing in May, by going birding.
In fact some of my fondest recent birding memories are in the dead of winter. Interesting turn of phrase – dead of winter – because you know there’s a lot of life being lived. On a mild January afternoon we stood on the banks of the Bushkill Creek and watched as 3 pairs of hooded mergansers, bandied about. The males were engaged in the most delightful courtship posturing. Their heads, with crests fully raised, would pop up and down in a jerky fashion. Then the mergansers would throw their heads straight back and slowly bring them forward. From a distance it appeared as if their bills were vibrating. Jackie and I agreed that they must be making some type of sound while doing that. We kept getting closer until we could hear the low guttural growl they made. This behavior continued for more than 20 minutes. For their part the females seemed uninterested and kept diving.
Just this past Sunday, we went on a walk at the Dorflinger Wildlife Sanctuary in White Mills, PA. When we stepped out of our vehicle we were greeted by a dozen bluebirds. The lighting conditions were perfect to show off the deep azure blue of the males. Not only were they out and about, they were singing robust songs.
No, I can’t think of any better way to beat the winter blues than singing bluebirds and dancing mergansers in January.