It sure has been a COLD winter up here, more like the winters of my youth growing up here in Manitouwadge. We’ve hit the -40’s quite a number of times and spent much of the winter in the -30’s C with really vicious wind chills sometimes feeling near -50! We’ve also had a lot of sunshine this winter, quite the contrast from recent winters where clouds have moved in during November and not cleared until March! We have a fair amount of snow too so yup, it’s like a good old fashioned winter.
In case you’re wondering what -40 might look like, here’s a shot of it one morning from my office window.
Considering how cold it’s been, I’m surprised at how long it took for my feeders to finally become busy. Activity in the yard didn’t really pick up until well into January. That’s when numbers of Pine Grosbeaks finally started to increase. That’s also when Common Redpolls & some Evening Grosbeaks started showing up in the yard. Normally by now, I would be counting over 100+ Redpolls at my feeders along with 50+ Evening Grosbeaks. I’m nowhere near those numbers this season. For this Great Backyard Bird Count weekend, I tallied a high of 12 Evening Grosbeaks (12!!) and 40 Redpolls with about 35 Pine Grosbeaks. Nice … but very low!
Speaking of Pine Grosbeaks, I’ve had a couple of visits from this lovely fellow. Notice the white patches on the male Pine Grosbeak on the front of the platform feeder. He has a condition called ‘leucism’. It means he has a lack of pigment in some of his feathers, leaving him with white spots where he should normally be red or gray. I nicknamed him Sparkle because he looks like he’s sparkling when the sun hits him. 🙂
Another busy place in the yard has been the bird bath. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a warm bath. The water is kept JUST warm enough to prevent freezing. In extreme temperatures of -30’s and colder, much of the rim of the bath WILL freeze, leaving an open hole about 6″ in diameter for the birds to drink. They all seem to greatly value the available water here since everything around the region is frozen solid. The Evening Grosbeaks in particular seem to love the bird bath the most but it gets used by most visitors to the yard.
Some Woodpeckers have been visiting the peanut butter log. I sometimes see a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers or a pair of Downy Woodpeckers throughout the yard.
Other visitors to the yard recently include:
This last photo shows who I believe is the culprit in the demise of the Brown Thrasher: the Northern Shrike. I’ve only actually seen the Shrike twice this season but I’ve suspected since December that he’s been around the neighbourhood. He has come in to land in my pine tree twice now and he clears the yard immediately every time, for about 20 minutes. I do miss the Thrasher terribly but I cannot hold it against the Shrike for doing what comes naturally as a hunter. Everyone needs to eat to survive. He sure is a handsome bird and he’s as welcome in my yard as any other feathered critter.
So, as I mentioned earlier, this past weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count. I wasn’t able to get out & chase any birds to count as we are still exceptionally busy with our reno. I was, however, able to watch my yard & nearby neighbourhood. My tally is about 14 species including a big surprise this morning: a fly-over sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker. Awesome end to my count!