For three seasons of the year, birdwatching can be a hectic sport. Spring and Autumn bring migration; Summer has the dawn chorus of frantically breeding birds. But birding in the Winter is a more subtle enterprise. Familiar birds are quiet, leaving mainly one’s sharp eyes to distinguish a fluttering movement, or a lump of not-a-dead-leaf on a bare forest branch. If you do hear birds, they are quietly murmuring to one another, not out brazenly singing in the open.
Northern Cardinals are one of the most beloved songbirds. As proof, it is the state bird of seven states, more than any other species! Personally, though, I prefer more eclectic birds (and states which have a cool, unique state bird – Greater Roadrunner, from my beloved New Mexico, springs to mind). But all it takes to set off my fascination is a “cardinal of another color”. Last winter, I had a female with white cheek patches visiting my feeders. They gave her a sweet expression. I was never able to get good pictures of her, but have lucked out on this year’s oddity.
The brilliant red of a male cardinal is usually broken only by a dashing black mask around the base of the beak. But this handsome guy only has a “soul patch” of black. I think it gives him a surprised look.