Now that I have some time off, I will resume this blog:
The weekend of Dec. 5-7, was an icy one in central Arkansas. The inclement weather prompted humans to rush to the stores in chaotic fashion. The birds followed suit. I made sure to stock my feeders Thursday, before the icepocalypse, in anticipation of frantic shoppers. I awoke Friday morning to a “mantle of white,” dotted with several birds.
The commoners were in more abundance and a few uncommon birds stopped by. Our usual lot, present in any weather and at any time, includes: Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches (not that usual but year round resident), Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Wrens, Chipping Sparrows, American Crows (I feed them squashed pumpkins/old Thanksgiving decorations), and Blue Jays. These were joined by the common winter birds: Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Pine Warblers, Cedar Waxwings, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrush, and the surprise of the winter (also new yard birds) Snow Geese (flyovers, of course). These all were abundant throughout the weekend around the yard and feeders.
I always await to see what elusive birds are drawn to the feeders during the inclement weather. Last year, snow brought Siskins, Purple Finches, Grackles (not that elusive but not common at the feeders), Rusty Blackbirds, and Fox Sparrows. This year yielded less but did bring in large amounts of Fox Sparrows and the common, but elusive, Eastern Towhees. The Fox Sparrows incorporated their scratch feeding at the feeders despite there being a prevalence of food above the ice. There were several dirt patches in the ice where the Fox Sparrows had “scratched” their way through.
During times like these, I like to try and hand feed the birds. In this weather, they lose certain inhibitions and will literally feed on top of me. In the past I have been able to hand feed Pine Warblers, Juncos, and Titmice (all during times of snow/ice). Historically, I have incorporated a standing, arm extended stature. This time I got a lawn chair and tried a sitting posture with seed on my knees. The last couple of years I used a shell-less seed mixture with peanuts, melon seeds, and sunflower seeds; chose this because the Pine Warbler can’t crack shells as well as others and I’ve had the most success hand feeding it in the past. No takers on the shell-less this time, and I quickly switched that for the whole sunflowers and millet mix. I chose the predominantly millet mix because of the abundance of sparrows. Only one Titmouse came to my knee (for the sunflower) and it stayed for less than 5 seconds. Although, I had Juncos underneath my chair, all around me, and on my boots, they were not on my knees. After an hour or two in mid-20 temps, I began to sweep the seeds off my knees. This movement scared most of the birds away, for I was incredibly still the whole time, but a few Juncos stayed. I left my hand on the ground with a millet mixture in my palm. A Junco came to my hand immediately and fed from it. While there he chased other Juncos away and even chased a Pine Warbler that was approaching. The Fox Sparrows fed inches away from my hand but would never hop on. Eventually, my palm ran out of millet and the Junco left. Unfortunately, I did not take a single picture of the Junco.