Mid-January report 1-17-24

January 17, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Enduring frigid temperatures with snow cover is winter's survival challenge for birds!

How do they make it? 

 

Recently, I had a call from my good friend, Bill Ruppert. "I have a question for you," he said. "The birds come in to the feeders for an hour or so and then disappear! Where do they go?" This was an excellent question! We talked about it for a while and I set out to find examples to share. 

Habitat = Food, Cover (Places to rest, nest and digest) and Water

 

Food is obviously important with seeds, fruits, nuts and sap that native plants provide. Birds also find insects on plants and in the leaves left in the beds. We help birds with supplemental foods in winter, foods high in fat to help them get through cold nights and maintain their fat reserves. In winter, birds especially need cover, places to rest and digest. (Nesting comes later for most birds.) So what do these "places to rest and digest" look like?

 

Even non-native plants can provide some cover. This is our climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris). In fall, it looks like this with golden leaves. In winter, the vine provides places for perching while the south facing stone wall soaks up sunshine and radiates a bit of warmth.
 

 

1-14-24 Northern Cardinal rests in climbing Hydrangea1-14-24 Northern Cardinal rests in climbing Hydrangea 1-14-24 Dark-eyed Juncos rest in climbing Hydrangea1-14-24 Dark-eyed Juncos rest in climbing Hydrangea 1-15-24 E. Bluebird rests in climbing Hydrangea1-15-24 E. Bluebird rests in climbing Hydrangea 1-15-24 Mourning Dove rests near stone wall1-15-24 Mourning Dove rests near stone wall

Birds will tuck in to rest in between forays for food. The area is out of the wind and birds might rest on the stems or on the ground. Shown are Northern Cardinal, Dark-eyed Juncos, Eastern Bluebird, and Mourning Dove. Perhaps you also have an area like that where birds can rest.

 

1-14-24 C. Grackles and European Starlings rest in leaf cover of shingle oak1-14-24 C. Grackles and European Starlings rest in leaf cover of shingle oak 1-14-24 Common Grackle in white oak1-14-24 Common Grackle in white oak

Oaks, especially young oaks like shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) and white oak (Quercus alba) tend to hold onto leaves through winter. This is called marcescence. Here, a mixed flock of Common Grackles and European Starlings are using these leaves to help protect them from the strong winds. A single Common Grackle was nearby in the white oak. A couple days ago, I checked the shingle oak before sunrise and there were nine Cedar Waxwings in that same area, just waking up! 

 

1-14-24 Mourning Doves and Blue Jay rest in Buttonbush1-14-24 Mourning Doves and Blue Jay rest in Buttonbush

Another way to stay out of the wind is to take cover in twiggy shrubs, like these Mourning Doves in buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). The Blue Jay had just hopped down to forage. Buttonbush does best in low, wet areas. This plant provides a protected spot for birds here.

 

1-15-24 Pine Siskin rests in Roughleaf Dogwood1-15-24 Pine Siskin rests in Roughleaf Dogwood 1-15-24 American Goldfinch  rests in Roughleaf Dogwood1-15-24 American Goldfinch rests in Roughleaf Dogwood 1-15-24 White-throated Sparrow and American Goldfinch  rest in Roughleaf Dogwood1-15-24 White-throated Sparrow and American Goldfinch rest in Roughleaf Dogwood

1-15-24 E. Bluebird rests in Roughleaf dogwood1-15-24 E. Bluebird rests in Roughleaf dogwood

Another shrub/small tree that is used constantly is the rough-leaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) next to the deck. It is on the south side of the house and protected from northwest winds. Birds rest, cat-nap and wait to take turns at the feeders and heated bird bath. There can be twenty or more birds at a time resting in this tree. They fluff up, cover their little talons and conserve energy! Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, White-throated Sparrow and Eastern Bluebird are shown.

 

1-16-24 Dark-eyed Junco in cover of Copper Iris and Cliff Goldenrod1-16-24 Dark-eyed Junco in cover of Copper Iris and Cliff Goldenrod 1-16-24 Dark-eyed Junco in cover of Cliff Goldenrod and eating seeds1-16-24 Dark-eyed Junco in cover of Cliff Goldenrod and eating seeds

Back near the pond and stone wall, these Dark-eyed Juncos took cover in between the green swords of Copper Iris (Iris fulva) and Cliff Goldenrod (Solidago drummondii). The birds are getting a two-for-one deal here, eating the seeds of the goldenrod while sheltering under them.

 

1-16-24 Downy Woodpecker at rest on white oak1-16-24 Downy Woodpecker at rest on white oak

This Downy Woodpecker stayed out of the wind by clinging to the south side of this white oak (Quercus alba) by the bubbler pond. The bonus there is that the air stays a little warmer near the bubbler. Warmer air helps when the temperature dips below zero degrees! 

 

1-13-24 Rusty Blackbird and 15 American Robins1-13-24 Rusty Blackbird and 15 American Robins

All the water features have been used to the max during this cold spell. Large flocks of American Robins were mixed with blackbirds, like this lone Rusty Blackbird in the lower left.

 

1-13-24 Hairy Woodpecker1-13-24 Hairy Woodpecker

For the first time this year, a Hairy Woodpecker was seen on at the bubbler on 1/13/24. This day, as the coldest air was coming in, proved to be the busiest at the bubbler and feeders. Staying hydrated, well-fed and rested is key.

 

1-14-24 Red-bellied Woodpecker female spars with E. Bluebirds1-14-24 Red-bellied Woodpecker female spars with E. Bluebirds

After the first snow, the bubbler continued to be visited by many species. This female Red-bellied Woodpecker was adamant about its turn!

 

1-14-24 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker1-14-24 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Both male and female Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have been coming to drink.

 

1-15-24 Red-bellied Woodpecker hammers at ice1-15-24 Red-bellied Woodpecker hammers at ice

By the 15th, the stream bed was nearly completely iced over. This Red-bellied Woodpecker was hammering at the ice to drink the flowing water beneath.

 

1-15-24 N. Mockingbird1-15-24 N. Mockingbird

That day was also the first time this year that a N. Mockingbird came to the bubbler. 

 

1-16-24 Four E. Bluebirds1-16-24 Four E. Bluebirds

There's no prettier sight than Eastern Bluebirds on freshly fallen snow! Today, it got up to 40 degrees, but another cold spell is on the way.

 

We have gained 21 minutes of daylight since the Winter Solstice!

To view all the photos since the last post, begin here:

Photos since 1/10/24

 

 

 

 

 


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