Dec 16, 2010

Birds in the Snow

This is just a quick post, since I have deadlines out the wazoo. I just wanted to share what I'm seeing from my kitchen, where I often work in the morning so I can see the activity at my bird feeders on the deck. Right now,  in our first "real" snow (although it probably won't amount to much), they're being mobbed by Goldfinches, the bird mafia. I know they're cute, and gorgeous when they change to their yellow breeding colors in the summer, but they show up in such numbers - at least a dozen right now - that other birds have a hard time finding a spot to feed.

I not only put up two feeders with a high-protein mix of seeds and nuts but also a Nyjer feeder and a suet feeder. These are all hung from the roof over the deck, so they're sheltered. To give the ground-feeding birds, and all the other nonfinch guys, a shot I also spread out seed along the deck railing and floor.

Right now, other than the finches, there are Northern Cardinals, White-Breasted Nuthatches, a white-throated sparrow, Titmice, and Carolina Chickadees. A few feet from the deck is an ancient tree that is a favorite of woodpeckers and bluebirds this time of year, since it's undoubtedly loaded with insects. The king of Virginia woodpeckers, the Pileated, worked that tree for quite a while before moving on to others. Out front, in a hanging tray feeder, more cardinals, sparrows, and a Blue Jay.

I don't try to feed the overwintering hummingbirds, the Rufous and Allen's. It's just too much work, but I know others all over Virginia are benefiting from going that extra step. (See my column on this, also posted here.)

I was happy to hear that our local farmers' co-op had switched to high-quality, certified bird feed, so I feel better about what I'm feeding the mob, even though they're likely to run me into the poor house.

I recently wrote my "Wild Ideas" newspaper column on feeding birds. Look for that to be posted here soon. More on the bird mobs later. Now it's off to get groceries for my dog and me, if there's any money left....
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