Over three feet of snow has fallen at Blue Jay Barrens this season, making it difficult for birds to forage in their usual areas. Each new snow seems to push a few more birds to the feeder.
I spread cracked corn on the ground beneath
the overgrown apple tree to the right and feed sunflower seed from a pole
mounted feeder. This area is left
unmowed and generally develops a thick cover before frost kills off the top
growth. By this time of year, feeder
visitors have knocked down all but the stoutest of vegetation.
This year’s addition has been heavily used as a roost area by various
sparrow species. Branches of the apple
tree are a primary destination of birds flushed from their feeding area.
This is often the only open water within a
The birds are in constant
motion. Some species seem to have
preferred feeding times. Mourning Doves
are generally most abundant early in the day.
This habit of
late feeding makes them targets of Screech Owls. I have found several collections of owl
pellets containing Cardinal bills, but I’ve never noticed any decline in the
number of Cardinals.
The Blue Jay and Cardinal will
nest nearby and bring their fledglings to the feeder this summer. Juncos, Tree Sparrows and Fox Sparrows will
disappear in the spring.
These large birds are
able to break through the crusted snow and access what’s left of a bumper crop
of fruits and nuts. The large turkey
flocks tend to visit the feeder only when the natural food supply is lacking.
They prefer foraging in the lawn exposed where
snow is melted by heat radiating from sun warmed house bricks.
A February 5
ice storm coated trees and sealed the snow cover with a frozen barrier
impenetrable to most birds. Most of the
tree ice has since melted, but the iced snow pack still persists beneath six
inches of more recent snow.
They take to the trees when I
come out, but drop down quickly when I begin to scatter the seed.
Their bright colors in the
sparkling trees would have been a cheery sight if I hadn’t known what a
disaster that ice foretold for so many wild animals.
These tracks, all made within 24 hours of the
last snowfall, show that the birds have searched every square inch of the snow
Several hawk species use the feeder area as a
hunting ground. This Red-tailed Hawk is
carrying off a squirrel that had been stuffing itself with sunflower
seeds. Warm temperatures forecast for
next week promise to melt off the snow and ice, so this temporarily
concentrated activity should spread back out over a more natural area.