We’re less than two weeks into the new year, and I’m already starting to have my doubts about it. The birds have been remarkably quiet. Here are a bunch of random observations about this winter so far, in no particular order.
I’ve saved a bundle on bird seed. There has been so much natural food in the woods, the birds just haven’t been visiting my feeders, or yours. Birds appreciate the feeder food when they need it, but they would rather not risk a visit when they have easy alternatives. Feeders are generally more exposed to predators than are the treetops. Moreover, when multiple birds flock to the feeder, the commotion can draw unwanted attention. Now that the ground is snow-covered, I expect the birds will return.
The snow layer stayed thin through the first week of the year. Squirrels have been pawing through the snow in my front yard to search for acorns. It was a big acorn year. As the squirrels churned up my lawn, the blue jays benefited. Two dozen blue jays have formed a gang, and they’re marauding through my neighborhood daily. They pay particular attention to where the squirrels have cleared the snow, because they know they may find a morsel on the newly-bare ground.
This year’s blue jay flock around my house seems abnormally large. It’s not uncommon for dozens of jays to gather, but it’s not typical either. They have been truly raucous this January. With so many gathered together, ready to spread an instant alarm, I don’t think a Cooper’s hawk has much chance to take one by surprise. These jays are clever.
Last week, I had a flock of 40 robins fly over. Robins in winter are not uncommon. They can subsist on fruit, and there is a colossal crop of berries and crabapples this year. Still, it’s unusual to see them at my rural home in January. They prefer the slightly warmer cities and coast. It’s evidence that the weather is mild and the fruit crop is ample everywhere in Maine right now.
So, if the fruit crop is so good, where are all the other fruit-eaters? Bohemian and cedar waxwings have been scarce. Pine grosbeaks are absent. The berry crop must be good beyond the borders of Maine, too, and it’s making for a dull winter here.