I find myself marking the seasons by the movement of birds past me. Any of you who have been reading here for a while know that already. Waterfowl, then sparrows and warblers moving north in the spring. The same groups but in reverse order with sometimes different species heading south in the fall. The birds that mark winter for me are themselves southward migrants from even darker and colder landscapes north. Last weekend I found my first flock of winter rovers - a flock of about 200 Common Redpolls feeding on silver sage seeds. It was not the placid flock of mid-winter, contently feeding at the backyard feeder, but a wandering group of restless travelers, curious but easily flushed, undoubtedly heading for someplace else before claiming a patch of residence for the rest of the dark.
I also get restless to go south at this time of year, to chase the daylight and experience my other home landscape - the ocean, ice and rock, the stink and clamor of frantic penguins rushing to fulfill the promise of another brief austral summer, and the friends I get to see for a short time each year.
This year my migration was nearly cut off. A medical exam, required to make my trip, suggested some problems. After nearly a month of additional tests suggesting there may be abnormalities, a definitive test has finally come through and I just received clearance to make the trip again this year. I had pretty much resigned myself to the closure of this wonderful opportunity I have had to visit The Ice but after all was said and done I am able to continue my annual migration.
Now comes my own frantic rush to make sure I have all my gear, paperwork, and obligations lined up and ready to go. This year there will be no travels in Chile but an extended period on the Antarctic Peninsula with a couple of brief visits to Ushuaia Argentina (hopefully enough time to FINALLY find the Magellanic Woodpecker I have been looking for over the last 15 years of travels to the tip of South America).
So, one more series of Antarctic travel stories and photos coming up.