Autumn leaves on house lined streets – reds, yellows, and oranges swirling on a blacktop pond. Chilly air makes them dance in a whirlwind up towards a grey sky, then floats them back to the turbulent surface, bidding their branches goodbye. Bursts of color share garden space with limp plants who give way to the cold. Though soon, the mums, roses, and Michelmas daisy, will fade into lonely shades of frostbitten black – barely distinguishable from the bleak sky above. The plants will wither into the frozen ground under a bed of white snow; some are eased into a peaceful slumber while others receive a quiet death, never to return or grow. Birch, maples, aspens, and oaks are dropping their lovely cloaks; becoming skeletons for a winter graveyard – forlorn, bitter, and cold.Yet still, the Golden-crowned Kinglet sings, eating red berries off an evergreen. Bulbs underground receive a trickle of water – nursing them for a sunny splendor. Perennials lay low for now, but oh the show they have in store. And the trees again, will don their cloaks with trinkets of flowers and seed pods galore. A time of rebirth comes year after year in a cycle of the seasons. And even in the coldest winter, life beats still and warm – and nature fills the land with beauty in various dazzling forms.

© 2008 Idaho Explorer

Winter Birds

A Welcome Winter Visitor
Dark-eyed Junco

After an unplanned hiatus from writing, I return to talk about our feathered fliers – the birds. Though winter is a couple of months away, I thought it a good time to get ready for the arrival of the wintering birds. I find immense joy in observing and identifying birds for the first time, and each time thereafter. Winter, summer, and migrations make for excellent opportunities to sight birds that aren’t around for the entire year. If you keep a running record of when and where you spotted a bird, then this is especially satisfying. But whether you don’t know a crow from a raven or are able to name the correct body parts for identification purposes, the thrill of seeing birds is equally pleasing, no matter the skill level. Anytime is always a worthy time to discover the intriguing activity of birding. It’s also a great way to learn the flora and fauna of your area, something every human being should strive to become experts on – as we have fallen so out of touch with the land and our immediate surroundings. Below is a list of the birds that winter in Idaho. I encourage you to look up the overwinter-ers in the region you live. Believe me, you’ll find great pleasure in it!

-American Tree Sparrow

-Bald Eagle

-Barrow’s Goldeneye

-Bohemian Waxwing

-Brown Creeper


-Common Goldeneye

-Common Merganser

-Dark-eyed Junco

-Evening Grosbeak

-Golden-crowned Kinglet

-Gray-crowned Rosy-finch

-Herring Gull

-Hooded Merganser

-Lapland Longspur

-Lesser Scaup

-Northern Saw-whet Owl

-Northern Shrike

-Red Crossbill

-Ring-necked Duck

-Rough-legged Hawk

-Sharp-shinned Hawk

-Snow Bunting

-Snowy Owl

-Pine Siskin

-Yellow-rumped Warbler

While some of these birds occupy parts of Idaho year-round, other areas of Idaho only get them during the winter months.  Look for them in your area!

Do you keep a bird list? Are you an avid bird watcher? Are you going to be from here on out? Share your bird stories!

*After posting this, I headed to my mom’s house and out the window saw a male and female Dark-eyed Junco at her bird bath! The Dark-eyed Junco is a favorite of mine and is a frequent visitor to bird feeders (as the picture taken out my window shows). For me, they are a symbolic transition into winter and when they arrive, I feel as if old friends have come for an extended visit. Welcome birds of winter!

© 2008 Idaho Explorer