We’ve been getting snow here in Massachusetts this week – one big storm and, at least where I live, snow flurries and snow showers off and on most days. It will definitely be a white Christmas.
I’ve been spying on the birds that come to the feeder outside my kitchen window. They provide a lot of entertainment when I hit the pre-Christmas lull – that time after all the decorating is done and presents bought and wrapped, but before the big festivities. If you’re a procrastinator, you probably have never had the opportunity to enjoy that lull. You’re probably still running around malls and markets.
I like the lull. It lets me get my fibromyalgia stabilized before the running around starts all over again. The birds are a big part of that lull this year. With all the snow out there, they are definitely looking for a hand in the food department.
Right now the feeder has a flock of Slate-Colored Juncos scurrying around it’s base. Juncos are ground feeders. They don’t like to sit at the feeder to eat, but they will go sit on the perch and knock seed to the ground and eat it there. Whatever works for them. It makes the Mourning Doves happy too, since they are also ground feeders. Since the Mourning Doves are too large to perch at the feeder as it’s set up, they are especially grateful for the Juncos.
The Mourning Doves also probably appreciate the finches (several varieties) – probably more than I do. Finches are fussy. They’ll sit on the perch for half an hour, picking through the seed. They eat what they like and drop the rest to the ground. It would be an awful waste without the ground feeders doing the clean-up work.
The birds seem to come in different shifts, like workers in a business. The “eat and fly” bunch – Chickadees, Titmice, Cardinals, Nuthatches – will all come about the same time. The ground feeders have their own shift. The perch feeders, who make me wonder if they’d eat till they explode, have a shift as well. Their shift usually has a lot of jostling for positions on the perch and pushing others out – occasionally resulting in a penalty or two.
This time of year, the suet feeder empties quickly. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and lots of others need the fat to stay warm in the cold, snowy nights. Unfortunately for them, I can’t get to the bird store that sells the particular kind of suet I need – with the hot peppers in them. I guess the birds don’t mind the pepper or don’t have “pepper taste buds”. The squirrels do – and they hate the pepper. So I buy only that kind. Otherwise, the squirrels will clean out the suet in one or two visits. Gluttons!!
The squirrels have been providing some entertainment this winter too. The icing we had made it a virtual ice rink for squirrels on top of the feeder. No place to get a toe grip. It’s really fun to watch them try to climb the pole, only to end up sliding all the way down with their paws wrapped around the pole. Sometimes they make it to the top, try to hang on while stretching over the side to reach the seeds and end up sliding of head-first into the snow below.
There is one squirrel that has built my curiosity about his antics. You may or may not know that there are animals, like foxes, that will dive head-first into the snow to try to catch lunch below (mice,etc). The other day I saw a squirrel do that! That was a first for me. Of course, the squirrel was looking for nuts and seeds, not mice, but there was nearly 10 inches of snow! The next day was even more intriguing. Rather than dive into the snow hole that was about 5 inches in diameter, he eased his was in using his front paws. Then he crouched down as though he was playing peek-a-boo and disappeared. I watched for his return . . . and I watched . . . and I watched. Finally, several minutes later, he reappeared and sat up on his haunches to eat an acorn he had located. It made me wonder if he was into construction and had set about installing a tunnel system under the snow. That way he’d never have to be stuck in a tree with no place to eat.
There seem to be more squirrels this year than in the past few years. Maybe that’s the result of last year’s warmer, drier winter. More survivors. Or maybe it’s because the squirrels had a particularly reproductive spring.
There seem to be new additions to the birds living near the house. Most of them live in the woods behind the house. But the new guys have moved in to the Rhododendron outside my living room bay window. I can see them from here. Nice to have good neighbors! I think I’ll just sit and watch them flit back and forth for a while.
It’s better than a nap.