Snowbirds who stay

A silly little sign reading, “Winter is for the birds,” hangs on one of our kitchen windows.  I purposely placed it there because outside of that window, you can view our birdfeeder attached to our backyard deck.

So winter really is for the birds at our house. Usually, when someone uses this phrase, it means that winter is undesirable, and a lot of folks agree with that statement.

After all, the winter season, especially here in the northern and western hemisphere of the world, delivers cold temperatures, often frigid ones. Frost, ice, and snow along with wind chill factors are the norm, and it can become downright bleak outside.

Most of us think that before winter arrives, birds flock south from this northern clime where I live, but that’s not true for all bird species. Some actually hang around during the winter and don’t pack their bags for Florida like human “snowbirds” do.

Years ago, however, we didn’t see many birds in our yard during the winter season. Possibly, the fact that we owned a calico cat, who believed herself to be quite the hunter and stalker, prevented birds from visiting us.

Once we placed a bird feeder in a backyard tree, things changed somewhat. As we kept it filled with birdseed, we would catch glimpses of cardinals, blue jays, and a few smaller birds here and there, but not many.

Those hoggish black crows tried their darnedest to join the feast also but were too large to get their beaks into the feeder, thank goodness.

A few years later, our beloved Callie went to kitty heaven, and then we purchased a suet cake holder for a front yard tree and a second birdfeeder that could attach to our deck railing. We positioned it so we could view our fine-feathered friends from the windows by our kitchen table.

And fine-feathered friends began arriving in droves or I should say flocks, especially during the winter season.

Not only do we enjoy visits from several Mr. Reds, those bright red, male northern cardinals, but also from their mates, females of muted brown with small slashes of red.  They stand out so brilliantly against a snowy scene.

But we’ve also spied several different bird species, common to our area of the state, but not really noticed by us before we started tempting them into our yard with a smorgasbord of seeds.

So far, in addition to the flashy cardinals, these lovely birds are partakers of our free eats: tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, white-throated sparrow, house finch, song sparrow, American goldfinch, cat bird, and black-eyed junko. But I haven’t managed yet to get photos of all of them.

Blue jays still try to chase the other birds off and perch unsuccessfully on the feeder to grab some tasty morsels, but they soon give up and fly away because they are just a mite too big to sit there comfortably munching away. Larger birds like mourning doves have also gravitated to our outdoor dining area but gather on the ground below the feeder to gobble up seeds that fall.

Often, it looks like a bird convention at that feeder, but when I try to move close enough to the window to capture a photo, they get spooked and fly off. Still, during these cold winter days when we’re socked into our home, not so much because of weather conditions as the continuing pandemic restrictions, birdwatching provides enjoyment for us.

That’s not the only reason we keep refilling the feeder though. As we supply a little nourishment for the birds, we also provide them a little shelter from the snow.

Watching our little visitors supplies a feeling of serenity and a bit of peace for us. Those moments cause us to be still and silent as we watch at the window, so we don’t frighten our fine feathered friends away.

Is winter really for the birds? Definitely, at least at our house.

“Feeding the birds is also a form of prayer.” ~ Pope Pius XII

© 2021

Winter is for the birds

blogIMG_04943Call me crazy but I actually like winter and I’m missing it this year.

Wintry weather has not been the norm in my neck of the woods. We have had bouts of crisp, cold temperatures and then Ol’ Man Winter seems to move on and warmer temps move in for a few days. Then after another couple of days, winter descends once more.

It’s like a climate see-saw – winter’s up, then it’s down, back and forth, back and forth.

I think this kind of switching back and forth is hard on our physical bodies. Just as your body acclimates to warmer weather and you can wear lighter clothes, it turns cold, you start to shiver, and have to drag out heavier sweaters, jackets, gloves, and hats.

I do wonder if the constant adjusting our bodies must do to accommodate this kind of weather doesn’t lower our natural immunity. And when it’s not cold enough, I also wonder if that’s why those nasty flu viruses thrive. Not cold enough to kill them off.

I’m not a scientist but those aspects just seem like common sense to me.

When the winter season is wacky like this, it’s tough on us mentally as well. One day the sun shines, it feels like spring, and you can enjoy every moment of it. Then when it changes, it’s like winter is dragging you back to the dreary doldrums, saying “I’m not done yet!”.

But as I said before, I’ve always liked the winter season. I enjoy colder temperatures because I am not a fan whatsoever of heat and humidity. Cold weather is invigorating to me; hot weather makes me wilt and lack energy and motivation.

The aspect I truly enjoy about winter though has been in absentia mostly. Snow. I love snow! I love to see it fall gently from the sky, blanketing the earth in a pristine white. I love seeing tree branches and evergreens laden with coats of fluffy snow. I love looking out at the expanse of our yard and seeing it glisten and glimmer like it’s covered in diamonds.

And we haven’t had much snow at all, just a bit here and there. Not once has Papa plowed the driveway, trying out his new tractor and blade.

Because of the lack of snow, the scene outside my window is bleak and colorless. Without snow transforming the landscape into a winter wonderland, my view is of a brown, lifeless yard, black-trunked leafless and barren trees and dead brush. Blah! That sight affects my mental state. It makes me feel blah too.

January is nearing an end – finally! – and we still have some winter months to go. February might bring us some snowfall, who knows? Snow might even appear in March as it sometimes has in the past.

I can hope for a snowfall to brighten my day. Until then, I’ll watch the beautiful birds enjoying their free lunch outside our kitchen window. A little sign hangs on that window that reads: “Winter is for the birds.”

At our house, winter IS for the birds and I imagine they are grateful for their fly-in diner.

In response, I’m thankful for their little bright spots of color in my drab, snow-less world.

“Feed the birds in winter; in return, they will feed your soul with the look of gratitude.” ~ Mehmet Murat Ildan