This weekend we have had our first real wintery weather of the season. It has been a very mild winter with temperatures 5-7 degrees above normal. And for southeast Virginia, that's pretty darn warm. That has seemed to keep the birds well supplied with food so they have not been coming to the feeders. I generally put out some suet plugs in mid- to late November and have Downy woodpeckers, wrens and even the occasional nuthatch stop by for a snack. The plugs will last a month or two before they are gone and need replacing. This year, it is mid-February and I'm still on the first set. And we usually get several House Finches at the feeder; and this year, very few. I've always noticed increased activity when the weather gets cold, so when the forecast for this weekend called for highs of around 40 and a chance for snow I made sure the feeders were well stocked and hoped for a busy day. It was great that it would occur on a weekend when I would be home to enjoy it.
|A full house of House Finches|
Saturday started chilly and cloudy and with a long line at the "bird cafe." In the first hour I was watching, there were 16 species in the back yard. For the past several years I have been participating in Project FeederWatch and to ease data collection, I have a list of common birds I see for the count. That list is at 22. So 16 of the 22 species that I see probably more than a couple of times a winter in the backyard were there all within an hour. A few more were seen in the front yard but outside the FeederWatch area. They kept coming and going throughout the day and I ended with 19 species and 58 individuals. This included 15 American Robins (saw several pulling up worms in the lawn), 10 House Finches, and a female bluebird. Bluebirds are one of the rarer "common" birds we see in the yard. A few will pass through every year. They seem to hang out in the fruit trees at the back of the yard for a few minutes and then move on.
But the birds weren't the only ones visiting the feeders. Our local squirrels were taking advantage of the food. Every several minutes they would go running at the feeders and scatter the birds to the trees. I have squirrel-deterrent feeders so they don't get much food from the feeders but they do seem to bully the birds. This in spite of putting on their cute and innocent look.
|"I'm not doing anything wrong"|
Saturday night we received a dusting of snow. Enough to cover the grass but not the hard surfaces. It was only 20 degrees Sunday morning and the birds were back. It wasn't quite as busy as Saturday morning was (but then again I got up a little later). But still plenty of activity.
In addition to the feeders, we make sure the birds have a nice supply of water. On the deck near the feeders we have a shallow bird bath with a few rocks in it for the birds to stand on. We often see birds bathing in here as well as smaller birds drinking from it. But the larger birds like drinking from my pond. I have a half-whiskey barrel pond with a few plants in it. This mockingbird sits on the side a drinks from it. A few will even stand on a submerged planter to have a drink. Sunday morning it was frozen over so while I made breakfast, my wife took some warm water out to replace the ice in the bird bath.
As the day continues I expect to see more birds stopping by. While it is colder outside than I would like for spending time out there, it is nice to see the birds return to the feeders. We are able to enjoy the outside while staying warm inside.