Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Continuous Snow and Bird-Feeding:
Ten Inches of Snow Shutting Down Bella Vista.
Snow Plows Called Back

Inside Looking Out, by Norma Boeckler

Yesterday we knew a storm was coming to our area, so we went to the Walmart in Jane, Missouri, across the line, for supplies. We bought another 25 pounds of black oil sunflower seeds and three more suet cakes, plus two bags of salt. We heard the main store in town, across from WM headquarters, was sold out of salt.

Sassy Sue and I filled the main bird feeder and refilled two suet feeders. A 92 cent suet cake lasts a month or so. The $13 bag of sunflower seed lasted several months.

We also filled the squirrel feeder and spread seed around the area near the front door. The deep chill was descending, and almost no birds stopped at the feeder the rest of the day.

We awoke to at least five inches of snow on the ground, and snowfall so dense we could not see past the yard. The birds were lined up like Packer fans who just heard season tickets were on sale. We never had so many feeding at once: about four male cardinals, three females, house finches, chickadees, sparrows, and woodpeckers. The woodpeckers always favor the suet, while chickadees will eat both foods. The bushes and sills were loaded with birds eating or waiting for some food.

A squirrel finished the corn immediately.

Suddenly all the birds flew away, not from anything I did. A blue jay sounded in the distance. I have heard of them scattering the birds from a feeder. I did not see him appear, but they have nested in that spot. The jays may have landed on the ground after they cleared the area. I have seen them picking up corn from the ground and eating it in the safety of the tree branches.

I looked at the area in front of the garage where I normally scatter some sunflower seeds. Bird tracks told me that my dependents were there, wondering about my generosity. I left a large amount before the snowfall yesterday. I thought, "If they don't come into the garage to remind me, they leave a message in the snow." So I cleared an area and gave them more.

The area around the front door was also alive with birds and a squirrel. They all feed together well. Fresh suet attracted a woodpecker there, too.

When people express astonishment at bird-feeding and watering, I share my surprise that they do not enjoy this inexpensive and edifying hobby. I spend about $2 a month on food by sticking to sunflower seeds and suet. Corn is extravagant but our grandson wanted it on the feeder again, so I was happy to indulge the tree rats. About $14 covers the winter corn supplies; after that, they are on their own. No more bail-outs.

Sassy enjoys bird feeding because it gives her a chance to charge the bushes and flush out some game. Snow has become boring to her. She wants to return to the dog park. Today even the snow plows were recalled from Little Switzerland - too dangerous for them to operate.

Bird-feeding in winter makes a difference, because they need more calories to stay warm and their normal food supplies are harder to reach. I read that our feeding is only 15% of their diet, so they depend on the Creator rather than us.

One reader buys grain and uses that. Any seed-bearing plant is also going to be enjoyed by most birds. They like bushes and the stalks of dead plants for perching while they look for food. My mother once asked, looking at the winter garden, with sunflower stalks still standing above the snow, "Why did you leave those up?" I said, "Two reasons. One is the birds love to perch there for preening and searching for food. Secondly, the plants rot into the soil and feed the worms all winter." She loved feeding the birds and photographing them, so that made sense.

We fed so many birds in Arizona that we scared a number of workmen. When they went outside, the white-winged dove population took off at once. They have a way of cheeping and noisily beating their wings. More than one man jumped back in shock at the commotion, especially when rounding the corner of the yard. The visual shock of 50 birds launching, combined with drumming wings and alarmed cheeping, did them in.

One reward was seeing them stacked up together, after a very cold night, like little toys, along the bay window. Rows and rows of them were tucked into the window ledges, several deep until the sun warmed them.
Hell, Michigan

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