I went looking for winter last weekend, but I couldn’t find it. Even my own backyard has me puzzled. A persistent flock of 30 American goldfinches has been devouring the Nyjer seed in my thistle feeders for the last month. They’ve realized I am a pushover, and they can dine on my porch at will.

It’s like watching 30 tiny yellow vacuum cleaners emptying my feeder and wallet.

They also like the lack of competition. There are no redpolls or pine siskins contesting the seed ports. Six American tree sparrows scavenging beneath my feeders are the only evidence of any subarctic breeders coming to my yard this winter.

I blame the exchange rate. The U.S. dollar is so strong that not many Canadians are visiting. However, wiser heads blame El Nino. That sounds like the nickname of a Mexican drug lord, but it is really a warmer than normal ocean current in the Pacific that recurs every few years. It warms the prevailing wind just as it begins to cross the American continent. Weird things happen. Maryland gets 3 feet of snow and Maine gets crocuses. This has been the winter that wasn’t.

I heard rumors things were beginning to change. For instance, John Wyatt reported a flock of 2,000 bohemian waxwings flying by his house in Winterport last week. There hadn’t been many reports yet this year, and waxwings were overdue. If a flock that size finds an ornamental berry tree in a shopping center, I pity the cars parked underneath it. Buoyed by this waxwing invasion, I decided to go look for winter.

My search took me to the ornamental gardens on the University of Maine campus. If bohemian waxwings or pine grosbeaks are around, chances are they’ll go there to feast among the crab apples and abundant fruits. But they didn’t. There weren’t even any partially chewed berry pieces or berry-colored poop in the snow to show they had been there.

So I next went off to the Stud Mill Road in Milford to look for finches. Along the way I was rewarded by the sight of a barred owl, sitting in a tree directly above the County Road next to Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The Sunkhaze area is infested with owls, so I was not surprised to see one in daylight. During hard winters, they often are forced to hunt during the day. In this case, he was just warming himself in the morning sun before roosting deeper in the woods.

There are large concentrations of spruce and balsam fir along the dirt roads east of Milford. If there are any unusual finches around, they can usually be found there. Yet I found no redpolls and only a scant few crossbills. I was surprised, however, to find the area teeming with pine siskins. These streaky brown mini-finches are closely related to goldfinches. They share the finch trait of being constantly noisy. Wherever I stepped out of the car, I could hear a handful. Some were singing. Most were just doing their short calls that sound like PEE-you or peanut.

Because siskins and crossbills breed in Maine, technically I had not found winter. No redpolls, no pine grosbeaks, no bohemian waxwings. I turned my attention to northern shrikes. Usually, I can find a couple along the Stud Mill Road. They like the open hunting areas adjacent to the road and under the power lines. They perch atop trees and saplings, looking to prey on small rodents and songbirds. This makes them wicked easy to spot. Yet none were present. I had to content myself with resident birds, including a couple of gray jays.

By all reports, the snowy owl invasion has ended, too. There’s at least one on Sargent Mountain in Acadia. A couple of others have been hanging around the old Brunswick Naval Air Station. But otherwise, the big incursions of the last three years are history. Either owl populations are returning to normal or the weather up north just isn’t bad enough to send them our way.

I’ll give winter another try. I have plans to explore interior Washington County, and I’m overdue to visit the logging roads above Millinocket. Surely I can find winter there. Meanwhile, a couple of turkey vultures have been seen in southern Maine and a flock of red-winged blackbirds turned up in Cape Elizabeth last Sunday. They’re a month early. I had better hurry up and find winter before spring finds me.

Bob Duchesne serves as vice president of Maine Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter. He developed the Maine Birding Trail, with information at mainebirdingtrail.com. He can be reached at duchesne@midmaine.com.