They arrive as individuals and they arrive as flocks so large that they darken the sky. Some move in silence and some shake the ground with thunderous flight. They fill niches left empty by the southward flow of our summer residents. They join year-round inhabitants and elbow their way up to the table.
They are winter visitors, guests in our city, migrants who arrive at White Rock Lake to spend the cold season in Dallas, a place where the word ‘cold’ only applies as an exception—and rarely in a way that compares to where they came from.
Northern shovelers (Anas clypeata), a male in the foreground and a female in the background. Unique ducks, what with that spatulate bill that looks like…well, it looks like a shovel.
A juvenile yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata). By spring these birds will put on a showy dress of mating plumage that can leave a man breathless. Abundant in winter to the point of excess, their voices fill the air with sweet melodies that seem hardly comparable to their small size.
A golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa) who grabbed a quick bite to eat before realizing I stood watching it. Unlike their cousins the ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula), golden-crowned kinglets do not arrive in vast numbers and do not act so blatant in their foraging, so fearless in their encounters, so devil-may-care in their activities. Finding them is more of a challenge.
A white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis). Yes, it hung upside-down on the side of a tree. And yes, that’s a typical foraging position for them. This individual left our photography session to go argue with a titmouse. Amazingly, the titmouse lost.
A male ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). Rarely seen on land because their legs are so far back on their bodies that it makes them awkward and uncomfortable, they sleep in the water, feed in the water, relax in the water… Let’s just say this: I’ve never seen one on land.
My winter nemesis: the brown creeper (Certhia americana). The size of a wren, silent, perfectly camouflaged for lurking about tree bark, and as the name implies, always creeping, always moving. These birds catch my attention only with movement. Unless they’re on the side of a tree where I get a profile view, they can be difficult to find and difficult to photograph.
And when I find one on the side of a tree like this, they don’t stay that way for long. They pause only to investigate possible food, then they move on to the next crevice, the next shadow, the next limb.