It has certainly been a frigid start to this new year. It was -5.9 degrees on the first day! For us it has been all about keeping the water features from totally freezing up, feeders filled and being grateful to be able to come back inside where it's warm.
Early on New Year's Day, the "Bubble" had quite an ice dome over it before we helped matters with buckets of warm water.
And, the basin was pretty frozen, so more warm water was brought to the rescue. Watchful maintenance is required with water features in winter.
There was so much ice on the big pond that we had to put in a heater/de-icer for the first time. Usually, the water keeps moving and at least a trough stays open. But these temperatures have been the ultimate test, the water was barely flowing under the ice which was thickening rapidly.
Here's the steam bed on 12/31/7 when we decided to add the heater.
After adding many gallons of water to bring the level back up, we placed the heater where the ice had melted and it started working.
The flowing water opened up the ice in the bubbling spring area on top. Rusty Blackbirds and Common Grackles of different ages soon came in to drink. The sun helped, too!
The feeders have been very busy. We have the mix of black oil sunflower and safflower in several tube feeders. The safflower is not a favorite of Common Grackles and mixing it in helps deter them from dominating the feeders. This bright, beautiful Northern Cardinal welcomed the sunrise on New Year's morning.
There are two wire mesh feeders for the goldfinches and siskins filled with half sunflower chips and half Niger seed. The first Pine Siskins of the year enjoyed a brunch of the mix on Tuesday, 1/2/18.
We spread some mealworms in different places for the ground feeders, like the Rusty Blackbirds and this Groucho-mimic Dark-eyed Junco.
We also put some in this small globe feeder for Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches and Chickadees to get some extra protein, too.
Thanks to my friend, Sue Poley, we have a wonderful source for freeze-dried mealworms in the United States as opposed to buying them from China. It's a small family owned company that supports bat rehabilitation efforts in Central Florida.
Check them out: http://tastyworms.com
We have two bark butter feeders that are up. One is a box shape and the other is a black cherry log. Both have holes in it that are filled with the bark butter. One can use chunky peanut butter which works. We offer the bark butter from Wild Birds Unlimited. Prices vary at different locations from $10-$13 per pound. I will buy 3-4 pounds at a time which gets us through the winter.
Hanging this type of feeder upside-down helps to deter the European Starlings. No solution is 100% with them however, there is always one who will try to cling.
The bark butter log is in a cage that Dan made to prevent access by the starlings. So far, that seems to be working. Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers can fly up into it from the deck.
The bark butter can also be spread onto the bark of trees, thus the name. I am careful with this - too much hammering by larger woodpeckers can eventually damage trees. So, I spread it on snags or dying trees first, then on trees with thicker bark. Many species of birds look for this food. From tiny Brown Creepers to Northern Flickers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, it's a favorite. This year, there are two American Crows coming in for it!
The problem is that any kind of peanut butter is also very attractive to European Starlings. When they come in, it's all over. That's when I stop putting it out for a few days until the starlings aren't around and try again.
We used to offer plain suet, but have found that the woodpeckers prefer chopped peanuts. So, of course, we accommodate. This female Northern Flicker is a frequent diner.
Today is Sunday, 1/7/18. We've gained five minutes of daylight, can you feel it? Temperatures have risen above freezing for the first time in over two weeks. There's a catch - freezing rain is on the way before we get a real break from the cold.
To view all the photos of the new year, visit the new gallery: 2018 Birds at Shady Oaks