With the advent of the new year, it’s a good time to renew our interest in our feeding stations to keep attracting the birds we enjoy day to day, and keep benefitting them as our coldest days of winter arrive – even in the Sunbelt. The bottom line is to keep your bird feeders well-stocked, and keep in mind, it’s not necessary to wait until a feeder is empty to fill it up. Then, make sure you are providing all the right options to be sure yours is the best yard for birds to stop over. Start by providing sunflower seeds, suet, thistle seeds, and fresh water during the winter season up north.
A new study published in eLife describes how Ruby-throated Hummingbirds use the same energy-conserving strategy to survive overnight to accumulate body fat they need to fuel long migrations. The study proves a long-held suspicion among biologists and provides new insights about the processes Ruby-throats’ physiology uses to determine whether to conserve energy or store fat. To conserve energy overnight, the hummingbirds can shift into an energy-saving torpor to reduce their body temperature and slow their metabolism up to 95 percent.
Sunday, the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival’s board of directors announced that in-person events at the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival have been canceled, but a schedule of online activities via Zoom will be produced for this weekend. Scheduled January 14 thru 16, this popular birding festival was canceled in response to a request from the San Luis Obispo Public Health Department due to surging Covid cases throughout much of California and far beyond. As a result, the Festival Committee is pivoting to a virtual birding festival via Zoom this week.
For birders trying to figure out if there is a Hoary Redpoll among the flock of Common Redpolls they’re viewing, new research from the University of Colorado in Boulder indicates: Don’t worry, all redpolls are actually the same species. Recently published in Nature Communications, the study found that the 3 species of redpolls – Common Redpolls, Hoary Redpolls, and Lesser Redpolls – are really all the same species, genetically speaking, as new technology has provided new insights into the taxonomically confusing repolls.
Winter reality in the northern plains settled in last week, providing days of blizzards and double-digit temperatures below zero. Not great birding weather, and birds were already in short supply. My one hope for a birding jolt was a super Sunday trip to SoDak to survey wintering birds of prey and check on wintering ducks. Everything looked good for a sunny day in the Pierre area with temps about 25 degrees warmer, but Saturday about sundown I had to take a reality check after a day of 30 mile per hour winds blowing snow across North Dakota highways.
The new generation of Leica Ultravid HD-Plus 8x42 Binoculars for birders feature prisms made from specially formulated Schott glass that provide exceptional light transmission characteristics that ensure higher image brightness, better color transmission, and considerably improved twilight vision. In addition to a brighter viewing image, these Leica binoculars also offer increased contrast performance in all birding situations, and particularly in unfavorable light.
Winter in the Northwoods has been enhanced in a big way by the Friends of the Sax-Zim Bog, and now you can walk the walk in Bog clothing and accessories that help protect more acres of Bog habitat. It’s the look and quality of the products, most of which feature the phantom of the north, a Great Gray Owl, that make Bog Gear popular. Take a look at the Fleece Zippered Jacket with an embroidered Great Gray Owl, available in burgundy or charcoal colors, along with fleece vests, T-shirts, stocking caps, stickers, patches, and the iconic Great Gray Owl tote bag.
Attract and benefit the best diversity of birds by adding fresh water to your feeding station this winter with the Allied Precision Heated Bird Bath with a Metal Stand – on sale now with free shipping and warranty. This product has been fully tested in sub-zero conditions to ensure it will not crack, and you can use this bird bath this winter and year-round. The heating element, which is protected and hidden between the dual plastic walls, and the internal thermostat automatically activates only when the water nears freezing, using 150 watts of power.
Sightings of Slaty-backed Gulls created a First State Record and a First Provincial Record last week in South Carolina and New Brunswick respectively. North Carolina birders also found a Third State Record White Wagtail. An Ivory Gull was documented on the lakeshore in Duluth, Minnesota, and a Purple Sandpiper on the lakeshore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s also noteworthy that some exciting record birds continue to be seen, including the First North American Record Bat Falcon and Inca Tern, the Steller’s Sea Eagle, and more.


The spectacular color and form of a banking Roseate Spoonbill as it returns to the nesting rookery at Smith Oaks last spring on the edge of High Island, Texas.

It’s an excellent time of year to review the photos you’ve taken during 2021, to organize your photo files, and take a little extra time to pick out your favorite photos of the year. I’d even suggest creating a new file of copies of the best photos you have taken during the past year. That’s a fun and easy project if you have kept up with editing your photos periodically; after each birding session, or every week or so. If that’s the case, you have already gone through all your photos, edited all the best images, named and dated them.

All things photographic work best if you have a process, which you can always improve upon, and now’s a good time to review your process and consider any changes that will help you become more organized and make referring to specific photos easier. Developing and using a photo filing system is important, and I shared an example of how to begin in an article published in The Birding Wire in the January 27, 2021 issue, which is available in the Archives link at the top and bottom of every issue.

An animated Red-headed Woodpecker displayed by bowing and calling as Paul took a series of his best photos of this iconic eastern woodpecker just 4 miles south of his home.
After flying across an open water area, a colorful Purple Gallinule reaches a perch on the shoreline in a lagoon bordering High Island, Texas.

As you review your photos and pick out all your favorites, your best, your most memorable images, you will surely be reminded about the broad range of photos you took last year through the changing seasons. Last week I took the time to review my photo files, which were pretty-well organized and edited up to New Year’s Eve. It was fun, rewarding, and thrilling in many ways. Really, it can turn out to be among the most enjoyable activities of the new year for you, and when I do this task I always want to share some of he photos with you and everyone I know.

Recently photographed on November 30th, a trusting young Snowy Owl provided a memorable photo session, probably not long after it left Arctic Canada.

In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do here, although limited by space in this article, I pared down my “Favorites of 2021” to a precious few. Even so, I have shared many of the best photos I took last year in articles in The Birding Wire, and you may even recognize a couple of the images I selected to showcase here.

Overall, our photos reflect our great interest in birds, and the images are a testament to the beauty and actions of the individual birds we encounter as they represent their species as part of our wild and natural world. Cherish all the good bird photos you take and the time and processes that permitted you to take each photo.

It is with great humility and honor that I can share my favorite photos with you. Don’t hesitate to share your favorites with me the staff at The Birding Wire too. Good Luck as you continue enjoy bird photography as an especially rewarding part of your birding activities.

Article and photographs by Paul Konrad

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A rare nesting species in the area, an adult Red-necked Grebe with 1 of its 3 fledglings provided a peaceful image south of Paul’s office in southeast North Dakota.


An egret or heron of unknown hybrid lineage provided a rare opportunity to photograph a unique bird near Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Some people suggest this bird is a Snowy Egret x Tricolored Heron hybrid.


Closer to home, half of a downy brood of Blue-winged Teal was photographed during a late afternoon nap.


A female Orchard Oriole provided a memorable series of photos during its migration stopover at nearby Melody’s Grove in late May.


Back to a dramatic pink bookend to this Top 10 collection of photos taken during 2021.
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