Surviving Snow


Spent yesterday digging out of the 30 inches of snow left here in Springfield. I couldn’t push my back door open more than 12 inches and squished myself through onto the deck to commence with shoveling. Several shifts were required to clear paths from front and back doors. Hardest of all, was restoring access to the street after the city plows had passed.

However, I didn’t need the park to observe wildlife behavior. Soon after day broke, cardinals (7), woodpeckers (hairy, downy and red-bellied), and a group of 100 house sparrows, juncos and starlings were busy plucking sunflower seeds from backyard feeders. They worked, despite the overnight coating of snow, despite gusts of wind that swirled snow around, and despite snow that continued to fall until about 10 AM.

I had just reached ground level, after pushing white stuff off the deck stairs, when two poufs of dark feathers danced in the air before me, drifting with the windblown and sparkling snow.  I paused to scan the trees for a suspected raptor.  Seeing nothing, I went back to work.

A little later, during an inside break, the view from the second floor showed three craters in an otherwise pristine backyard. The first and deepest hole in the snow was ringed with dark feathers, – where a starling met an untimely end.

In the afternoon, I was excavating the driveway. Hefting the five-hundredth (or so) shovelful of white stuff, –  high and to the side, – I held my breath while half of it blew back into my face. When my vision returned I was looking at a hawk that was looking me. Sitting on back fence with its chest feathers puffed out, it looked very large, but I recognized the Cooper’s Hawk. It seemed content to continue as it was, so I returned to my task. The bird stuck around a while observing my behavior for a change.

I believe this Cooper’s Hawk has been a frequent shopper at my backyard feeders for two years, now. Its favorite meal is pigeon, and normally, it’s readily available, but the overnight blizzard and heavy snowfall sent the rock pigeons off to parts unknown to seek shelter. A starling had to suffice in the wake of the winter storm.

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2 thoughts on “Surviving Snow

  1. Wow, a lot of birds on such a snowy day! I’m sure the birds appreciated your feeders. With that much snow, finding food must be incredibly difficult. I’m sure many birds would perish were it not for people feeding them.

  2. I believe that is the case in cities and into the suburban sprawl. Mature trees get removed on a whim and homeowners mow down any seed-bearing grasses, not to mention the endless acres of lifeless concrete and asphalt. The most popular yard plantings are non-natives and/or species that provide neither food, nor shelter. Birds so enrich the quality of human life, – I believe feeders are a small, but important contribution in ecologically impoverished environments.

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