Our winter finally arrived last week with below normal temperatures. Some snow, although we escaped the big storms that have hit the coast, and the extreme cold and winds of the prairies. (Note to self: no regrets about moving west of the mountains!). Feel sorry for the birds at this time of year, so I try to keep the feeder filled. Although I’ve wondered why they have ignored the super-abundance of mountain ash berries in the neighborhood…including on our own tree that has fruit for the first time in its 10 years. Today, I think I know the answer.
Could it be they’ve been saving this nutritious food supply for a ‘snowy’ day? Yesterday morning in bright sunshine, huge flocks of Bohemian waxwings and a couple of dozen robins began swirling around the berry-bearing trees in every yard along the street. They descended on a small one growing wild on our front bank and within half an hour, had stripped it bare. I think they’ve dined on other food for months, using the berries as insurance against the hungry days of late winter. Smart plan, and maybe we can recall this strategy to help forecast future, late season, cold spells.
One special visitor showed up with the robins: a varied thrush. It is similar in appearance to its robin cousins, but has a black breast-band, orange eyebrow and wingbars. Often solitary, it will flock with robins when foraging for berries. And it will be one of the earlier spring birds I’ll hear calling—a strong single note—from a high perch.
The snow continues to drift down. My walk around the block was a brisk one. And the mountain ash outside my window is bare. But hopefully all those birds are fluffed up, digesting a fine meal.