Snow is still on the ground, a residue of the snowfall a few days ago. It’s very peaceful watching snow falling and the quietness afterward as the snow absorbs sound pretty well. Though it was too cold to go outside, a joyful moment was still there.
We hang bird feeders along the patio roof during winter which makes it much easier for us to refill them and we can bird watch when circumstance stops us from doing anything else. It’s also easier for us to patrol and protect the feeders from European Starlings and House Sparrows. The down side is we have to sweep bird droppings and whatever else they’ve dropped off the ground underneath. In spring, after we move the feeders back to the garden, we use soap and water to clean the remaining effluent off the fence. But it’s worth the effort. We can observe our avian friends closely and they can also take shelter in the woodpile under the roof from predators too large to squeeze in.
These are some of what we enjoyed a few days ago.
There are others that are more elusive like the Carolina wren, the Pileated Woodpecker and the Northern Flicker. Clearly not wanting the publicity with being caught on camera.
Winter temperature has finally matched the season and there is not much of anything out there. Snow has not yet paid a visit. The birds have picked most of the seeds off the buds I left in intact for them: Echinacea, Black-eyed Susan, Goldenrod… So now they enjoy the additional food we put out for them. On cold days they can enjoy a heated birdbath too.
We remove the feeders every night to prevent unwanted guests like raccoons and skunks. A raccoon can empty a feeder in one sitting. Once we had suet feeder removed and carried over to a neighbor’s yard. We suspected a raccoon. The only animal around here that is big enough to carry a suet feeder off and has ‘thumbs’ to open the cage. Any morning that we can’t put out the feeders (when we have to go to work) or when we put them out a little late, there will be birds lined up on the pool fence outside the patio… waiting.
It’s as though they are saying ‘What’s wrong with these humans? Don’t they know what time it is.’ As soon as we put the feeders out and turn our backs, they land on them, at the head of the line, the Chickadees and Downey Woodpeckers. We try to keep them healthy and well-fed during winter so they will stay and patrol our garden in spring and summer.
These are the locals that stay with us year round:
As much as the American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) like Nyger seeds, we’d rather feed them with sunflower seeds in winter. The feeder is hung under the patio roof and the Nyger seeds make a big mess under the feeder.
I have a hard time differentiating a male House Finch (Carpodacusmexicanus) from a male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus). But House Finches are more common in my area and this one has less of a red plume on the breast to be a Purple Finch.
I’m surprised to see this female Northern Cardinal (Cardinaliscardinalis) on the suet feeder. Most Cardinals prefer a tray feeder or a feeder with a horizontal bar that they can hop on.
It’s always fun to watch a White-breasted Nuthatch (Sittacarolinensis) walking up and down a tree trunk or a post or eating upside down.
There are more locals than these shown above but they are either camera shy like the Eastern Bluebird or know they are not welcome like the Blue Jay, House Sparrow and European Starling. I don’t know if the migrating birds from further North like the Common Redpoll and Pine siskin will be here this year since it has been so warm. But for them too, the welcome mat is always out.
I spent most of New Year’s Day watching birds in our garden. It was cold outside so I mostly just watched them through the glass of the patio door. I took the camera out for only half an hour at a time, until I felt numbness creeping into my fingers and toes. Since there wasn’t any snow on the ground, though it was very cold, birds were still able to find food naturally. So there were no new critters on the feeders. But what was interesting to me was their behavior at the birdbath.
We provide water for the birds year round but cut it down to two or three heated birdbaths during winter. It’s a bit difficult to draw an electric cord far from the house and monitor the bath too. Water dissipates much faster in heated birdbaths because of evaporation and the frequent use by birds. Letting it dry up while the heater is running is not an option.
Providing fresh water for birds in winter, when an unfrozen surface is hard for them to find, does not just benefit the birds. I enjoy watching them gathering around the rim either to drink the water or just for warmth. When there is a lot of snow on the ground or when it’s really cold, I would see birds that do not usually come to the birdbaths as well… woodpeckers, crows. Even the squirrels love it.
This birdbath is a little too deep for small birds so I put a stone in there to provide a shallow area so that they can bathe. They do seem to like it. Most of the smaller birds often land on the stone instead of the rim. In summer the bees also like to land on it when they drink water.
A snow storm hit us again today, starting about 5:00 AM. It was very peaceful because no one was out, the town plows didn’t bother to come around early and not a snow blower in sight. It was the type with big fluffy flakes falling down early on then became very light rain before stopping in late afternoon. It dumped close to a foot of snow today, adding to the foot still here from the previous Wednesday. We now have a three foot snow bank along our driveway and higher mounds here and there. And, there’s more to come tonight. The weather forecast is predicting the second round of this Nor-Easter tonight may add another 8″ to 10″ more.
As soon as the snow stopped the neighborhood came out in force cleaning their driveways and getting them ready for the next onslaught tonight. We had to rake some of the snow off our roof as it is thick and heavy and makes it difficult to open the sliding door. During all these chores, we were accompanied by plenty of birds doing their best to pack as much food in as they could to brace for the storm. The Chickadees and Carolina Wrens didn’t even care that we were raking the roof; they just flew in and out picking on seeds at the feeders by the patio.
Our beehives have only a couple of inches left before the snow reaches the landing board and the bottom entrance. We were lucky that we decided to put the hives on 3 foot risers off the ground, otherwise half of the hives would have been buried under the snow by now. I know the bees would be fine if that had happened because they still have the upper entrance that keeps air flowing. They will be able to come out through the snow for their cleansing flights anyway, even if snow covered both entrances. The hot air they create in the hive melts little holes in the snow where the entrances are.
Only a couple of inches left before the snow reaches the landing board. Both lower and upper entrances are covered with snow. When I inspected them after the last snow fall, they had small tunnels behind the snow that opened up to the left and right of these little mounds. Once I saw them I left the snow alone so it can block the cold and wind from getting in the hives.
A few more weeks to go before spring reaches us, but more snow to be expected. On the bright side, we need all the extra water. And, if the bees pull through this harsher than usual winter, we will have a very strong generation of honey bees for our garden. Bees that can weather temperatures below 0ºF in a very erratic winter.
I checked on our vegetable garden early last week and was happy to see the garlic I put in last October came up. The Daffodils and tulips have also pushed themselves above the soil. But Mother Nature doesn’t seem to give up on winter just yet, she dumped a whole load of snow on us again last Friday. The storm ‘Saturn’, with just a winter storm advisory, has dropped around 10 inches of snow over night. The vegetables and flowers, were fooled by a few days of warm daytime temperature, have disappeared under the snow again.
Our avian friends who have started to claim territory and housing were force to make a truce between them. Yes, they will have to eat together at a few feeders we put up for them in winter since snow has covered everything else. With snow still falling, they patiently wait their turn at the feeders. Here are some of them….