Bird watching in a snowy landscape

by John Briggs on January 25, 2009

in Bird Photographs, Blog, Weekend Birding

Icicles | Click for larger view

Icicles | Click for larger view

In the middle of a brutally cold and snowy winter, bird watching has been done within the confines of a warm car and my home. Winter in Maine is so changeable. If it’s not snowing it’s cloudy, if it’s not cloudy it’s cold and windy with a windchill that pierces you to the bone.

This morning, we awoke to a temperature of -13° F. Thank God the wind was calm. Birds were making a run to the feeders well before the sun rose. Some of the birds were fluffed out to the point of looking nearly twice their size. When they do this, it makes an ambient air cushion within the fluffed out feathers and helps to keep them warm. This keeps the body heat trapped in.

Some of the poor souls just sit there, looking so cold, that it makes you want to invite them inside for a hot cup of coffee and a seat beside the fireplace.

Arctic sea smoke on the Kennebec River

Arctic sea smoke on the Kennebec River | Click for larger view

A view across the frozen cove here at Fiddler’s Reach this morning just after sunrise was breath taking. Arctic sea smoke rose above the open water of the Kennebec River, with an adult Bald Eagle disappearing into the mist.

Fresh footprints in the snow at the bottom of our yard confirmed the presence of deer overnite. Another overnite visitor, a Red Fox, visited the front yard and meandered through the side yard and down into the spruces where its trail disappeared from view.

Yet another set of tracks has me baffled. They are large and spaced a good foot and a half apart. Maybe Yeti was in the area last night looking for food and shelter.

After filling the feeders this morning and having my coffee, I watched from the picture window at the Blue Jays fighting over peanuts that we sat out for them.

Blue Jay taking off with a peanut | Click for larger view

Blue Jay taking off with a peanut | Click for larger view

One after the other, the Blue Jays would grab a peanut and fly to a tree in our neighbors yard. Not seeming to spend enough time in the tree to remove the shell and eat the peanut, I grabbed my binoculars and took a look. A hollow in the tree was evident and the Blue Jays were caching the nuts in this hole.

I figured this was fairly smart of them to be storing food, but what about the squirrels running off with the nuts? Do the Blue Jays have a guard for this cache, or better yet, an alarm system to keep intruders out? Maybe they have a barter system with the squirrels.

Other birds that visited the feeders this morning included a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers. For the first time since living here, the male and female shared the suet feeder instead of running each other off. With the male on one side and the female on the other, they ate in harmony.

White-throated Sparrow | Click for larger view

White-throated Sparrow | Click for larger view

An adult male White-throated Sparrow made a visit under one of our feeding stations. (photo taken from a window) This little fellow was shy. The slightest movement from inside our house and he would scurry under the Christmas tree we put outside for a bird shelter.

Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Junco’s and Northern Cardinals round out the birds that visited our frigid yard this morning.

I leave you with a few more photos of the activity this morning. As always, comments and criticisms are greatly appreciated.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: Canon 100-400mm IS L

Blue Jay with peanut | Click for larger view

Blue Jay with peanut | Click for larger view


White-throated Sparrow | Click for larger view

White-throated Sparrow | Click for larger view


Happy birding!


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