WORDS ON BIRDS
Birds Celebrate Storm’s Passing
November 04, 2017
By Steve Grinley
awakened by what sounded like a freight train coming through the
house. Once I gathered my thoughts, I realized that it was the sound
of wind blasting through the trees around the house. It was loud -
very loud, and I glanced at the clock that read four o’clock, which
also meant that the power didn’t go out!
I decided to get up and check to be sure that there wasn’t a tree or
limb down on the house or cars. Seeing the trees bend in the wind
and looking at the empty brackets off the deck railing I was glad
that I had taken in all the bird feeders before the storm hit. It
also made me wonder where the birds took shelter, and how they could
survive such a fierce storm.
Everything else looked fine outside, though the creaking trees and
howling winds would keep me awake the rest of the early morning. As
the skies lightened a few hours later, I could see the trees, now
more bare of leaves than the day before, still swaying in the
subsiding wind. Through the bare branches, the pre-dawn sky looked
eerie, a pale, unfamiliar color previewing the sunrise.
As I sat drinking my coffee, watching the sky brighten above the
feeder-less deck, a downy woodpecker dropped down to the railing.
The downy is often the first bird to appear at the feeders in the
morning. He looked confused as he glanced back and forth at the
empty brackets, not seeing the usual feeder arrangement that
presented breakfast. I could hear him calling “pip” each time he
turned his head, clearly agitated at his missing handouts.
I was clearly derelict in my duty. I took out the suet feeders
first. As I stepped outside to hang them, I was amazed at the wall
of song that hit me. Birds were calling and singing everywhere! It
was like a May morning, almost deafening in bird song after the
presence of so few birds over the past weeks.
Finches were chattering, titmice squeaking, chickadees calling their
names, nuthatches, downy and red bellied woodpeckers, screaming blue
jays and crows cawing in the background. Even a few robins were
singing in the trees! I also heard the Carolina wren, which we
haven’t heard in weeks, giving his static call - the one that sounds
like moving a thumb across the teeth of a plastic comb. Were all the
birds rejoicing over the storm’s passing? Were they all checking on
each other to know if everyone was OK?
I hung the suet feeders and before I could bring out more feeders,
the downy was already feeding on the suet. I brought the thistle
feeder out next for the finches and filled a tray of fresh sunflower
hearts and millet. I spread a few of the sunflowers along the
railing hoping the blue jays would come down, realizing full well it
would invite the squirrels too. I put some dried mealworms in the
tray and along the railing, just in case the Carolina Wren visited.
I brought out the mixed seed feeder
last, the one that usually sees the most activity. I returned inside
and sat to finish my coffee and to watch the feeding frenzy. But the
feeding frenzy never happened. It suddenly all stopped! Even the
downy woodpecker and the few goldfinches were gone! Did I take too
long to take the feeders out? Was I being punished for not having
them out in the first place? Did they all move on to a better venue?
Hard to know. So I decided to get ready for work.
By the time I left the house, all the song had quieted. Since this
“morning after” event , things were back to normal. The rest of the
week, the small numbers of usual suspects visited the feeders as
they had been doing for the last month or so. Three downy
woodpeckers, two red-bellied, three titmice, two chickadees, two
nuthatches and several goldfinches are all regulars.
We have heard juncos in the yard a couple of times, a new “yard
bird” for us, but they haven’t found their way to the feeders yet.
Also new to the yard list, Margo spotted a large bird flying through
the woods along the creek. It was very light in color and at first
she thought that it might be an owl. She saw it land and was finally
able to locate it with the binoculars. It was a great blue heron!
The storm earlier in the week had the stream running quite swiftly
again, so the heron was likely looking for a fresh meal!
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