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Thursday, 2 February 2012

Eurasian Siskins on February 2nd

My favorite animals are birds. And, although I do not care whether my cats go to heaven, I would wonder whatever could take the place of birds, especially the morning chorus, which will not occur for several months.

One reason out of several I decided I could not live in Malta year round was the lack of birds.That may sound like a drastic decision to some, but I love birds. But, now that I am in Ireland, I am happy to see and hear birds, even for the past six very cold weeks I have been here. Today is perhaps the coldest day we have experienced. It was colder here yesterday, in the built-up village north of Dublin where I am staying, than in Iowa! However, as cold as it is, the grass is green and the birds live in the hedges and conifers.

Beside the ubiquitous European Robin, the Hooded Crow, Ring-Necked Doves, European Starlings, Magpies, and Seagulls, today I saw a small flock of Eurasian Siskins in a set of dilapidated yew trees near my flat. I cannot tell you how exciting this is for me. I kept a bird diary for about 35 years, only stopping when I could not keep up with the entries. I have been a serious birder since my early twenties, keeping records, using good field glasses, tromping around soggy Minnesota, Wisconsin and other bird sanctuaries, including some in England. I can recognize many species by calls, as I trained myself by memorizing songs, first from tapes, and then from CDs. If one can hear, one can look in the appropriate place for the bird.

In Missouri, my son and I saw hundreds of birds, including the Great Barn Owl, the Great Horned Owl, and Bald Eagles almost daily in the summer. In Iowa, we identified many types of birds, including the Peregrine Falcon, the Fan-Tailed Hawk, the New World Quail, and the hundreds listed here. The Wiki list looks like a neater version of my first bird diary. And I have seen most, if not all of those birds on that list.

But, today, on Candlemas, and the coldest day I have experienced in Ireland, to see the little band of Eurasian Siskins is a gift from God. They are still fluttering in and out of the yews, moving quickly and nervously as they do, showing their yellow coloring and improving my cold morning with their bits of sunshine. Ah, the resident Magpie just claimed its space.  The yellow birds have flown away. I think the little Eurasian Siskins are gone.