Monday, October 13, 2008

Winter Weather, for a Moment

True to the forecast, winter arrived with a vengeance on Saturday night. From sleety rain to firm crystals and eventually to large, fluffy flakes, the snow fell for hours, leaving an accumulation that coated the hopper feeder, filled both the hanging and freestanding platforms, and froze in the bird bath. That didn't, however, stop the eager house finches and house sparrows from enjoying a meal, but it did change their attitude toward the seeds available. Perhaps sensing that natural seed sources might be harder to come by or just grateful for a food source they didn't have to scrounge, the birds were much more aggressive at the feeder and were apt to chase away others whom they felt might be impinging on their dining experience. While they're still very social birds, they are certainly more territorial about the feeder they feel is theirs (and rightly so, as they're welcome to it).

The finches and sparrows aren't the only birds that have been more aggressive lately, however. The western scrub jays have been particularly vehement about caching their peanuts and not sharing with others. They have violently defended the small dish where I place the peanuts, even to the point of snapping at intruders and flying after them to see them out of the vicinity. Undoubtedly these birds are siblings or at least familiar with one another, but as the weather cools their self-preservation instincts come to the fore.

It is fascinating to see how the birds react to the turning weather, both for gradual changes (less light each day and gradually lower temperatures) as well as abrupt shifts. They have definitely been eating more than they were a week or two ago, and several of the finches and sparrows have put on enough weight to draw amazed stares from this birder -- the term "butterball" comes to mind. But whether they're rifling through the seed to find their favorite tidbits, perching on a frozen bird bath as they munch, or peering through the patio doors in hopes of more seed, they're welcome and I will oblige.

Be sure to vote in the October poll and share the types of feeders you use!

No comments: