Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Feeder Birds Return as Winter Arrives
December 12, 2009
By Steve Grinley

     I’ve talked about the lack of birds at bird feeders the past few months. That seemed to be the norm everywhere, while a few customers told me of their abundance of birds. I can’t explain the latter, but the mild weather and the abundance of natural fruit, seed, and nuts have kept birds foraging for food elsewhere.    

     That seems to have all changed this past week with the snow and rain storms, and plummeting temperatures. Birds were flocking at our store feeders just after Sunday’s storm and they have continued to visit. Goldfinches were particularly plentiful and they were lined up, waiting their turn at the feeders. It prompted me to add more thistle feeders to accommodate the onslaught of finches.

     Our reliable downy woodpecker continued to visit our suet log. Tree sparrows were back after a noticeable absence during the early part of the season. Cardinals are again visiting early in the morning and, again, just before dusk. As it gets colder, they will frequent the feeders midday to partake of sunflower and safflower seeds.

     As the days grow colder and more snow is likely, be sure to keep your bird feeders full. Birds especially need food late in the day as they prepare to roost for the cold nights before them. At first light, they will return to the feeders to replenish their protein and body fat lost during the frigid nights. Suet is another good source of fat that many birds will seek during the frigid weather.

     There have been only scattered reports of winter finches, specifically pine siskins and evening grosbeaks elsewhere in the state. No reports yet of redpolls, crossbills, or pine grosbeaks. It may be one of those winters that is not blessed with more visitors from the north. Time will tell.

     Last Sunday’s storm brought some different visitors to the yard of Phil Brown in Essex:

     “Our 1st snow event of the season was full of raptors here in Essex. The day started with an Eastern Screech Owl flying into one of the owl boxes, just over my head as I shoveled out the feeders at 6 a.m. It posed for photos later in the day.

     “An adult Red-shouldered Hawk visited the yard on a few occasions through the day. They nested in the area this summer and visited the feeders for a bit of lunch during snow storms last winter. I’m guessing this is the same individual for another season.

     “To round out the day an adult Cooper’s Hawk made several passes at the feeders as well as running through the snow after House Sparrows which it missed each time I watched. The plowing and shoveling brought on by the small storm was broken up nicely by the days visitors to the yard though I doubt the House Sparrows were as entertained as I. Photos of the threesome can be seen at: http://www.nebirdsplus.com/Raptors09.htm “

     Further afield, the first snowy owl of the season has appeared at the Parker River Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island. It was first seen last weekend on the North Pool dike near the water control gate. Later on Sunday, it was seen across the river from the Maintenance Area on the refuge. It was sitting on the same pole across the river this past Thursday.

     An adult bald eagle has also been seen on the refuge over the past week. It has been most frequently seen around the marsh just south of the Pines Trail. It has been perched on Grape Island and also seen on a large piece of driftwood near the edge of the river through the marsh.

     As the weather changes, so do the birds. Whether you are just feeding the bird in your back yard, or venturing out to view birds elsewhere, you may be pleased to see new birds arriving for the winter months. These birds may make brief visits, or they may keep us company until spring finds us again.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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