If you fill the feeders, they will come
Bird-feeding has been front and center here at Froggy Bottom in northwest Ohio, especially since the Polar Vortex decided to drop its frigid arctic hammer on our heads, and keep pounding.
An unrelenting spell of sub-zero nights has the usual feathered suspects flocking to my 11 feeders – goldfinches, house finches, common juncos (snowbirds), northern cardinals, bluejays, house (English) sparrows, black-capped chickadee, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, chipping sparrows, mourning doves, and a few more.
The feeding season for me began as soon as natural berries, such as those on dogwood and autumn olive, were eaten up. I cleaned and filled my feeders, and waited. I put out “oiler” or black sunflower seeds, mixed seed, suet, and niger seed. For a good while, I wondered where the birds were. Then came the Big Cold. Bingo. Now I am filling feeders daily, rather than weekly.
As usual, I always am watching for that unusual visitor – say, an evening grosbeak, a pine siskin, a common redpoll, or another of the northern finches down from the sub-arctic. Could happen, any day, and that is what makes winter bird-feeding an enjoyable pastime for millions of nature-minded folks. (This winter is supposed to be good for an “irruption” of snowy owls, those great white daytime-feeding winged predators of the tundra. So keep you eyes peeled, especially on fencelines and other lower cover.)
A couple of things to remember:
If you are feeding birds, keep it up. Putting out feed the first time attracts the birds, and they grow dependent on your food-source. Quitting too soon could doom birds that otherwise might have sought and settled on a more reliable source. (Remember: You really are feeding to attract birds for your viewing pleasure; these avians survived millenia without our feeders. So take your ethical responsibility seriously.) Birds burn up calories fast and need to eat often and heavily in very cold weather. Keep feeding until greenup in spring and the appearance of both buds and bugs.
If at all possible, give birds a place to drink water. It is hard to do, what with nightly freezing. I have the benefit of a nearby creek, which while mainly frozen somehow manages to keep the odd patch of open-water.
Oh, and I just last night experienced another kind of bird-feeding:
A pair of coyotes managed to creep up on some low-roosting doves and each nabbed one. They used the snow-crusted, thickly frozen surface of my pond for a dinner plate, leaving a heavy scattering of tracks, some feathers and scat, and departing footprints amid the heavy maze of cottontails prints that crisscross the pond and entire creek bottom.
It was bird-feeding in reverse, where the coyotes were feeding the birds – to themselves. Everything has to eat something. Just like we do.