Migration is the word for this month. The ponds and reservoirs in the valley are teeming with winter residents. Nothing makes having nice binoculars pay off more than feasting the eyes on the intricate patterns of a male green winged teal, shovelhead or bufflehead. I never get over the flash of amazement at how quickly a bufflehead can spin over and disappear under the water on a dive. Similarly startling is a cormorant suddenly coming up like a submarine periscope breaking a glassy surface.
Out at the coast another migration is under way. Gray whales are passing southbound at rates reaching 30 per hour in early January. Promontories like Yaquina Head are excellent viewing spots. Many coastal overlooks will have volunteer naturalists providing information about the whales. The next big wave of migration will be in May when the cows and calves pass northward.
Keeping the suet cages and seed feeders well stocked invites regular visitation of little birds. The bushtits tend to stick together in large, coherent groups. It is hilarious to watch a dozen or so trying to crowd onto one suet feeder. The backyard feeders are tended by mixed feeding flocks that also may include juncos, nuthatches, pine siskins and, my favorite, the chickadees. I think I like the chickadees best of all because they keep up with cheery calls even in gloomy weather.
People who miss my Willamette Valley Nature Calendar can download calendar pages for 2013 from the link provided on my website.