Saving the world while you wait

Winter birding at the doorstep

Winter storm Helena was supposed to hit us harder. Six inches of snow, failed power, and freezing pipes. But a couple of inches of snow and a sunny morning were what finally descended on Raleigh, NC.

The storm came and went, and the dull morning made way for a bright and sunny afternoon. The birds began to come out, and I could hear a lot of activity from the feeder put up by the folks living on the floor above our apartment. Soon, the scurrying up there caused a lot of feed to be spilled onto the floor, and before long my backyard was filled with birds. Probably because all food elsewhere had been covered by the falling snow.

There was some water, still not frozen, puddled over the lid of a drain. Birds were landing over that as well to lap up whatever precious little of it they could. A brief battle for water occurred between a pair of Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis).

Find your own puddle!
Find your own puddle!
Eastern Bluebird contemplating the day's agenda.
Eastern Bluebird contemplating the day’s agenda.

The next visitor at the lid was a female House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus), who had her fill and took off before anyone else came down to stake their claim.

Outta here!
Outta here!

A handsome Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) joined the fray, picking out a few morsels that were lying unclaimed. He (or she – sexes are similarly plumed) acquiesced for a mugshot (as I lay outside my backdoor flat on the floor, firing away) and took off shortly.

A mouthful for the day
A mouthful for the day

A few Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) too decided to forage nearby, and they looked gorgeous with the tiny blue rim around their black eyes.

Mourning sunshine
Mourning sunshine

There were a few Dark Eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) around as well, overwhelming the others by sheer numbers. Their tiny pink beaks dug deep into the snow, un’snow’ing tiny morsels of grain that had been covered by snow falling from the rooftops like a fine spray when the wind blew.

Lord of the snow
Lord of the snow

In a couple of days, the winter snow cleared and the temperatures rose. But I never could find another day that brought a similar congregation of birds of all feathers in my backyard, which confirms my theory that the lack of food elsewhere drove them to the crumbs dropping from my neighbor’s balcony.

  • Wow. So beautiful! Lucky to have such a vibrantly backyard…