Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birds Celebrate Storm’s Passing
November 04, 2017
By Steve Grinley

     I was awakened by what sounded like a freight train coming through the house. Once I gathered my thoughts, I realized that it was the sound of wind blasting through the trees around the house. It was loud – very loud, and I glanced at the clock that read four o’clock, which also meant that the power didn’t go out! 

     I decided to get up and check to be sure that there wasn’t a tree or limb down on the house or cars. Seeing the trees bend in the wind and looking at the empty brackets off the deck railing I was glad that I had taken in all the bird feeders before the storm hit. It also made me wonder where the birds took shelter, and how they could survive such a fierce storm. 

     Everything else looked fine outside, though the creaking trees and howling winds would keep me awake the rest of the early morning. As the skies lightened a few hours later, I could see the trees, now more bare of leaves than the day before, still swaying in the subsiding wind. Through the bare branches, the pre-dawn sky looked eerie, a pale, unfamiliar color previewing the sunrise.

     As I sat drinking my coffee, watching the sky brighten above the feeder-less deck, a downy woodpecker dropped down to the railing. The downy is often the first bird to appear at the feeders in the morning. He looked confused as he glanced back and forth at the empty brackets, not seeing the usual feeder arrangement that presented breakfast. I could hear him calling “pip” each time he turned his head, clearly agitated at his missing handouts.

     I was clearly derelict in my duty. I took out the suet feeders first. As I stepped outside to hang them, I was amazed at the wall of song that hit me. Birds were calling and singing everywhere! It was like a May morning, almost deafening in bird song after the presence of so few birds over the past weeks. 

     Finches were chattering, titmice squeaking, chickadees calling their names, nuthatches, downy and red bellied woodpeckers, screaming blue jays and crows cawing in the background. Even a few robins were singing in the trees! I also heard the Carolina wren, which we haven’t heard in weeks, giving his static call – the one that sounds like moving a thumb across the teeth of a plastic comb. Were all the birds rejoicing over the storm’s passing? Were they all checking on each other to know if everyone was OK?

     I hung the suet feeders and before I could bring out more feeders, the downy was already feeding on the suet. I brought the thistle feeder out next for the finches and filled a tray of fresh sunflower hearts and millet. I spread a few of the sunflowers along the railing hoping the blue jays would come down, realizing full well it would invite the squirrels too. I put some dried mealworms in the tray and along the railing, just in case the Carolina Wren visited. 

     I brought out the mixed seed feeder last, the one that usually sees the most activity. I returned inside and sat to finish my coffee and to watch the feeding frenzy. But the feeding frenzy never happened. It suddenly all stopped! Even the downy woodpecker and the few goldfinches were gone! Did I take too long to take the feeders out? Was I being punished for not having them out in the first place? Did they all move on to a better venue? Hard to know. So I decided to get ready for work. 

     By the time I left the house, all the song had quieted. Since this “morning after” event , things were back to normal. The rest of the week, the small numbers of usual suspects visited the feeders as they had been doing for the last month or so. Three downy woodpeckers, two red-bellied, three titmice, two chickadees, two nuthatches and several goldfinches are all regulars. 

     We have heard juncos in the yard a couple of times, a new “yard bird” for us, but they haven’t found their way to the feeders yet. Also new to the yard list, Margo spotted a large bird flying through the woods along the creek. It was very light in color and at first she thought that it might be an owl. She saw it land and was finally able to locate it with the binoculars. It was a great blue heron! The storm earlier in the week had the stream running quite swiftly again, so the heron was likely looking for a fresh meal! 

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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