There's been a Nutcracker (Кедровка) hanging around. At least, we assume there's just one. They're not native; I've read that they travel a good bit in the winter time. I wonder where this one came from? It's absolutely unafraid of people. We've seen it several times, hopping around in the center of town. The main street is planted with various conifers, and that must be what draws it to here. (Addition: it's taken me several days to write this. There is definitely more than one! This morning one was screaming right outside our bedroom window. While the children and I sat on the bed, watching and trying to figure out what it was so upset or excited about, two more arrived! And then another two! We imagined that the first was our friend that we've been seeing around, and that it was giving some new arrivals a tour. It really did look like that.)
One day when Asya was particularly fussy and didn't even want to walk around on her own outside, she and I really enjoyed watching a Treecreeper (Пищуха). It was also not afraid of us, so we were able to follow it from tree to tree and get really close. Because we were so close, she could really see it and observe. Every time it would appear around the tree truck, she would point and say, "coo-coo" like peek-a-boo.
I was going to say this was our best adventure, until what happened yesterday: a few weeks ago on the way to church we stopped to watch a tiny brown bird hunting for food, going up and down tree trunks. (Jaan made the interesting observation that it must be a woodpecker, because of the way it moved. He was wrong, but I was surprised that he would make that connection.) As we stood there silently, the tiny bird flew straight at us, and it landed right on my arm! It was just for a moment, but still. . . ! When we came home and looked it up, we discovered that it was a Winter Wren (Крапивник).
Not too long ago, I noticed new little birds hanging out in the ash tree across from our windows and all around the entrance to our staircase: Chaffinches (Зяблики). They're very pretty! At first glance, I thought one of my beloved снегирь--a female--had come from Russia. Did you go read the article on chaffinches? We found this fascinating: "In Belgium, the ancient traditional sport of vinkenzetting pits male chaffinches against one another in a contest for the most bird calls in an hour."
Our book says that chaffinches often come in mixed flocks with Bramblings (Вьюрки). Sure enough, about a week after I first noticed the chaffinches, I saw some other bright colors mixed in. Now they're both out there every day. We haven't had any on our feeder, but they're almost always visible nearby.
The day before yesterday, on our way to go sledding, Jaan, Raia and I heard a woodpecker tapping. We found it right down near the ground, and it was yellow! Not black and white and red like what we usually see. We watched for a while and could even see its long tongue. When we got home, we looked it up and learned that it was a Grey-headed Woodpecker (Седоголовый дятел).
Now, the most exciting adventure! Yesterday, we were sitting in the kitchen having after-nap tea time, and a Sparrowhawk (Ястреб-перепелятник) swooped down on our feeder! I almost choked and started yelling. The children didn't see it, because it was moving so fast, but they got almost as excited as I was, once we brought out the books and looked it up. I'm pretty sure that it didn't catch anything, and Jaan and Raia are quite happy with that. Jaan wants to find a big stick and stay outside all the time to defend the little birds. I've seen Sparrowhawks two other times recently and not been entirely sure of what they were. Now I'm sure. The first time we saw one, we were out walking. We did got a good look, but do you know how many reddish hawk-like birds there are in the books? Another time we were out at the playground, and I saw one flash by. It was kind of unreal, there in the very center of town, people around everywhere, and no one else saw it. Having one hunting off of our bird feeder was very exciting, but we're really hoping it doesn't happen again.
And people say that there aren't any interesting birds here?!?!?
(All the photos here are from Wikipedia. Click on them to go to the source articles.)