Friends of Marymoor Park


What to see in January?


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Still the depths of winter, but already the days are getting longer. I think the birds notice, for while temperatures are cold, and there’s still a lot of rain, there’s an optimism in January amongst both birds and birders. A new year!

Already, it seems, there’s some movement of birds. January is often the last chance of the winter for sightings of Greater White-fronted and Cackling Goose. We’ve only twice had a Snow Goose later in the winter. And there have been only a handful of swan sightings for the month, and none for February (though Trumpeters have been seen in March. Duck numbers tend to remain strong, though.

This month is the best month for spotting Dunlin, flying in their synchronized flocks, overhead or over the lake. As they bank and turn, the flock will alternately appear dark, and then flash to white.

Other waterbirds are also around, including Common Loons, as many as four species of grebe, and Double-crested Cormorants.

There are seven species of sparrow commonly seen in the winter – Spotted Towhee; Fox, Song, Lincoln’s, White-crowned, and Golden-crowned Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Junco. White-throated Sparrows may turn up amongst flocks of Golden-crowned Sparrows. A few Savannah Sparrows may still be lingering, though they typically clear out in November, not to return until March.

Rare birds for January have included Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Eurasian Wigeon, Red-necked Grebe, Long-eared Owl, Western Screech-Owl, American Tree Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and Common Redpoll.

Long-eared Owl, 2011-01-20

American Tree Sparrow, 2009-01-29.  Photo by Ryan Merrill.

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