Truce Among Birds

Making Peace For Their Survival

After we finished preparing our beehives for the winter, putting a cold frame over the winter vegetable plot and cleaning up most of the leaves it’s time to focus on our avian pals.  We don’t feed them in summer because we don’t want them to depend on us completely for their survival and we want them to have some incentive for pest control in the garden.  But when insects die out or hibernate underground and flower seeds and fruits wane, it’s time for us to return the favor.  It’s only fair.  We’ve been carrying on a symbiotic relationship since I started gardening.

Late autumn and winter is also the time the birds make a truce with one another for their own survival.  The territorial line is diminished, no need to defend a non-existence.  No female to impress, no kids to protect…they only need food, water, shelter and to avoid becoming food themselves.

Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals
Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals

Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) will steal other birds eggs or chicks during breeding season so other birds never let them get close.  Still, small birds depend on Blue Jays to give them warning when there is a hawk around.  Blue Jays sometimes even gang up on a hawk.  But at this time of year smaller birds seem to welcome the company of Blue Jays.

 Four Northern Cardinals wait their turn for the feeder
Four Northern Cardinals wait their turn for the feeder

Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), especially the males, are very territorial during mating season.  I’ve seen them chase one another in the garden far too many times.  In winter, however, both males and females stay together in a flock.  One year, our Forsythia bush lit up with twelve male Cardinals looking like Christmas ornaments in the snow.  Three females and one male, above, were waiting for their turn at the feeder.

A Blue Jay puffs up against the wind
A Blue Jay puffs up against the wind
A Tufted Titmouse enjoying probably the only bird hot spa in the neighborhood (electrically heated)
A Tufted Titmouse enjoying probably the only bird hot spa in the neighborhood (electrically heated)

View more backyard bird images at photo blog Amazing Seasons

Birds of Winter

When Nothing Blooms Outside

Winter.  I have a love-hate relationship with winter.  I love winter best when it’s snowing and its aftermath.  The snow wipes out the sad look of bare branches and turns the world picturesque with dull gray turning to glistening white.  The quietness, since the snow absorbs sound so effectively, renders the world peaceful too.

There is not much I can do in the garden aside from feeding the birds and checking up on the bees.  That’s when I want winter to go away as soon as possible.  In the meantime when there is frozen snow on the ground, marked by deer and rabbits tracks, I spend my time camera-stalking birds coming in for food and water.  Here are some of them…

American Goldfinch in its winter coat.
American Goldfinch in its winter coat.
Carolina Wren waits its turn for the feeder.
Carolina Wren waits its turn for the feeder.
Tufted Titmouse, one of the more friendly and daring residents
Tufted Titmouse, one of the more friendly and daring residents
Chickadees will eat from your hand when you gain their trust.
Chickadees will eat from your hand when you gain their trust.
Fresh clean water will draw the birds in when everything else is frozen.
Fresh clean water will draw the birds in when everything else is frozen.
A female cardinal waits her turn
A female cardinal waits her turn

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