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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Birds!

One of the best things about a snowy day is that so many more birds come to feed. Most mornings, during 'breakfast hour', there are about 30-35 birds at any one time in our back yard. (I know this because I participate in Project FeederWatch.) But this morning when I got up to re-hang the hummingbird feeder for the pair of Anna's in our neighbourhood, I counted close to 100 birds (including juncos, chickadees, towhees, song sparrows, fox sparrows, varied thrush, northern flickers, house finches, and two Anna's hummers) just in our backyard, and the front yard was busy too. That's what happens, of course, if you provide food and fresh water in the cold of winter when natural sources of food and water are so much scarcer. I couldn't resist putting on my boots and getting out there to take a few pictures of today's "snow birds" to share with you.

Varied Thrush in maple tree

The perfectly-named Song Sparrow
Female Spotted Towhee fluffed up to keep warm

Dark-eyed Junco chewing on a sunflower seed

The smorgasbord is open

I spent much of the day watching the hilarious shenanigans of the birds as they vied for food - although there was, of course, an endless supply. Just when I thought I had determined who was at the top of the inter-species hierarchy, some brave little juncos attacked the Northern Flicker, completely ruining my current theory. But the Fox Sparrow pretty much always managed to get the juncos to scatter.

Fox Sparrow

House Finch at hanging feeder
After several winters of spending too much time refilling pie plates full of water (to prevent them from becoming ice) when temperatures fell well below zero, this year I treated myself to a birdbath heater with a thermostat. Although most birds can get their water needs met by chipping away at ice and drinking snow, this is much more efficient - for them and for me. Because I moved one of our birdbaths onto the back deck in order to plug in the heater, I get a real bird's eye view of all the birds who come for a drink as I sit warm and toasty at our dining room table. I recommend the indulgence.

Song Sparrow at heated birdbath
Varied Thrush at suet feeder
The stunning Varied Thrush don't usually dine at the suet feeders in our yard,
but today, in the snow, they are.

Female Anna's Hummingbird at feeder

This isn't a great shot  but I wanted to include a photo of an Anna's in order to remind everyone to:
  • feed the Anna's hummingbirds 
  • either create some clever system for preventing the nectar from freezing overnight or ...
  • bring it into the house after dark and get it back out there as soon as its light out in the morning 
Most (although not all) birds will survive the winter without us humans intervening but I'm not so sure about the Anna's hummers. Let's not take a chance!

What "snow birds" are you seeing in your back yard? Anything unusual?


nick said...

Are slate-coloured junco's rare? We appear to have at least two at our feeder (mid-March) on El Verano. They are quite distinctive. Apart from having no brown tinges anywhere, their chests are whiter than the usual whitish grey of the Oregon variety.

Sharon said...

Although the Oregon variety are much more common here, we have a couple of the slate-coloured juncos at our feeders too. Birds of BC (Campbell & Kennedy) says the slate-coloured are common in BC.