Sunday, March 7, 2010

Suddenly Snowy

For the past few days, spring seems to have been lurking just over the mountains, waiting to descend upon the valley in a rush of warm winds, green grass, and birdsong. That was not to be earlier this week, however, when four inches of heavy, wet snow fell overnight, burying feeders and shattering branches all over the neighborhood.

In the backyard, the nets I keep beneath Nyjer feeders to catch spilled seed quickly became floating snowdrifts, but that was not to stop industrious house finches, American goldfinches and lesser goldfinches from nibbling away. Instead of needing to dangle on the feeders, they simply stood on the snow to eat their fill. In the front yard, the lee side of the feeders was protected from most of the snow accumulation and thus became a popular dining spot, though when birds landed in the nearby aspens they were nearly buried among the branch drifts.

Just as quickly as it came, it was gone. Even that same day the snow melted away from the feeders (much to the delight of more hungry birds), and now it is gone from the grass as well. That hasn't stopped my life list from getting a bit snowier, however - just today I had the most marvelous walk along the Skipper Bay Trail near Utah Lake, and in two hours of birding a mere 1.25 mile stretch I spotted 26 species, including a common raven, plenty of black-billed magpies, several northern flickers, a flock of white-crowned sparrows, two playful northern harriers, and thousands of ducks: American wigeon, northern pintails, cinnamon teals, and green-winged teals, not to mention dozens of mallards. A tremendous flock of red-winged blackbirds also yielded a pair or two of Brewer's blackbirds, and song sparrows, house finches, and black-capped chickadees were also in evidence, along with one industrious downy woodpecker.

The highlight of the walk, however, were the two snow geese feeding among a flock of Canada geese. Their brilliant white plumage, thick bills and black wingtips were beautiful to see, all the more so because they are the newest addition to my life list.

The signs of spring aren't in whether the snow falls or melts, but in the behaviors of the birds. Just two days ago I was snowed under, but this morning I was surrounded by birdsong. Despite sometimes questionable weather, there is no doubt that spring is one the way when you begin to see new species migrating and birds pairing off to prepare their nests. Snowy or not, it's a great season to be birding!


Cynthia said...

I love your blog. Thanks :)

Cynthia Oakes said...

Worth how ever many inches of snow to catch sight of a snow goose! Lucky you.