Snow birds and more cold-weather wildlife

By DAN GEDDINGS
Posted 1/14/18

"What are you doing?" my wife, Ginger, asked.

I had been standing in the kitchen for a while, looking out the window at a snow-covered back yard.

"I'm looking at the birds" was my simple reply. She was satisfied and went back to her …

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Snow birds and more cold-weather wildlife

Posted

"What are you doing?" my wife, Ginger, asked.

I had been standing in the kitchen for a while, looking out the window at a snow-covered back yard.

"I'm looking at the birds" was my simple reply. She was satisfied and went back to her knitting.

Dozens of sparrows, cardinals, juncos, chickadees and more were mobbing our bird feeders. They were in a frenzy. It was bitter cold, and they needed food. The powdery snow was swirling and covering everything, including the feeders.

I walked over to the back door and looked out. The birds were beginning to give up on the feeders and were perching in the bare branches of the lantana bushes, just sitting there puffed up into little feather balls, trying to stay warm. I noticed that the brick steps from the back door were somewhat protected from the wind-blown snow and that the top step was clean. I walked back into the laundry room and got a big cup of bird seed and returned to the back door.

When I opened the door the birds all flew, but I knew they would quickly return. I scattered seed on the top step and down the other steps. As soon as I walked back inside, the birds started returning. They were landing in the lantanas right beside the back door, and it only took a few minutes for some to notice the seeds on the back steps. Now we were back in business!

Later that evening when the snow had stopped and the birds were gone, I went out and brushed the snow from the feeders. The next day Ginger and I both enjoyed the spectacle of songbirds in our back yard.

The variety of birds that we get is amazing. There is a large fallow field in front and woods behind us. We get song sparrows, field sparrows and white-throated sparrows from the field and cardinals, juncos, towhees and tufted titmouse from the woods. The variety of birds we get seems endless.

A couple of days later when the roads were safe, I drove down to our property in Clarendon County. The snow was retreating from the open fields under a warming sun, but the shady woods were still coated in the white stuff. I walked in to one of our stands where I had placed a game camera a week before.

The ground was covered in tracks - deer, raccoons and birds had cleaned up all the corn in front of the camera. I was amazed at all the bird tracks in the snow. I removed the camera card and walked back through the cold woods to the truck.

The next day also dawned very cold. I wanted to go to Orangeburg to the Grand American. It is the nation's largest field trial for raccoon-hunting dogs. The event typically brings 30,000 visitors to the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds, and the fairgrounds are covered in vendors, hounds and people for four days.

I waited until mid-morning and headed to Orangeburg. It was cold when I got there around noon but not too bad. Just walking around generated enough body heat to be comfortable. A warm sun made it even better. An event like this is an immersion in the outdoor lifestyle. I lingered as long as I could, then headed back.

When I crossed back over Lake Marion on the interstate, I noticed a large flock of seagulls swirling around in a mass above the water. The surface of the lake was covered in cormorants swimming and diving. I suppose it was another feeding frenzy.

It has warmed up for a few days now, and the birds have slowed down at the feeders. But the cold weather will be back soon, and I think the birds will be, too.

Reach Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.