Thursday, February 21, 2013

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

After months of bemoaning the lack of precipitation we've been experiencing, I can finally write with excitement that we've got snow!!!  Lots and lots of snow!!!  About 12" of snow, actually, which is amazing for the Wichita, Kansas, area.  In fact, according to the Wichita Eagle, the last time this area saw a foot of snow was in 1971 - 42 years ago!

Precipitation of any sort tends to pull in more birds to my feeders than usual.  The cardinals are the most vivid, with their red feathers providing such a bright, warm contrast to the black and white winter world.  This big snow event, though, has my bird feeders being overrun by large flocks of red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds.  The former are welcome.  The latter are not, but I have not figured out a way to welcome the blackbirds while keeping out the cowbirds.   Somewhat surprisingly, the red-winged flocks are a mix of males and females;  I would have expected primarily males this early in the year.  All of these birds must have been wintering just south of here, since I rarely see more than 6-10 red-wings at a time on a "normal" day, and I hadn't seen any cowbirds yet this year.

Not surprisingly, my feeder regulars are being overwhelmed by all the short-timers.  Occasionally, though, an unusual "regular" shows up.  This pied cardinal came fairly often last year, but this is only the second time I've seen her this winter.  I'm glad to know she made it through the summer;  I wonder if she ever found a mate and produced any young?

Gardeners tend to be optimistic every spring;  I find this snow is finally refilling my springs of optimism - and just in time for the spring planting season to begin!  It's hard to imagine a more welcome winter weather event.


ProfessorRoush said...

Wow Gaia, the cardinals are fabulous! Anything special techniques or feed to draw so many in at once?

Jason said...

We are supposed to get up to 6" of snow tonight, and have had plenty of precipitation in various forms over the last couple months. Quite a relief!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Prof, The only "secret" I have is that I don't feed cheap mixes! I've learned that they bring in more than their share of starlings and other "undesireables", so I feed only black oil sunflower seed, a high quality mix (black oil sunflower seed, a bit of striped sunflower seed, a little white millet, some safflower seeds - which are a waste - and peanuts), two thistle feeders for the finches, and suet of as high a protein content as I can find.

Otherwise, I have to suspect that my "secret" is simply the habitat surrounding me! Our house isn't that far from the draw, which connects to a nearby creek that has fairly decent woodlands along it, as far as south central Kansas goes.

Do you feed birds? What sorts do you draw in?

Gaia Gardener: said...

Jason, I hope your snow is as wonderful for you as ours has been for us!

Melanie said...

LOVE your cardinals!! There are cardinals less than a mile from my house, in a better habitat..and unfortunately they don't find their way to my habitat. .on a good note though, I was delighted to spy 4 eastern bluebirds this afternoon hanging out by the skimmer at my pond. .they enjoyed drinking out of the small open area there. With the boost of moisture, I find my optimism for the spring 'springing' into action as well!

ProfessorRoush said...

I do; mostly chickadee's, house wrens, and finches. I rarely see anything larger, although I do offer sunflower seeds in one feeder. Maybe the lack of trees and water near the house.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Melanie, All you need is for one pair of cardinals to take up nesting in your area! With water and some trees, shrubs and wildflowers, I think your habitat will be just fine, once an adventurous young pair heads out your way!

Congrats on the blue birds. I saw a small flock in the Back 5 a couple weeks ago, but haven't seen them since. We've got houses up, and two of the houses had nests last year, so I'm hoping they'll be around most of the year this year.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Prof, your comments made me think of 2 other ideas to try, if you haven't already. A friend gave us one of those deck-rail mounted, heated bird baths, which all the birds seem to really enjoy using. I'd had a bird bath on the ground, with a heater in it, but the starlings would flock in and empty it in 5 minutes. For some reason, the starlings are much less attracted to the deck mounted bird bath, so it's more functional for the rest of the birds.

Secondly, if you don't have several types of feeders out, you might try adding some diversity in that arena. I have one large, squirrel-resistant hopper feeder with black oil sunflower seed; 2 open platform feeders (one hanging, one pole mounted) that I fill with mix; 2 hanging thistle feeders; and 3 suet feeders. There is a lot of seed debris and spillage over the winter (in other words, it's messy!) but the sparrows and juncos prefer to feed on the ground, so it all works out just fine.

Despite the messiness under the feeders in the winter, by early summer you can't really tell I've been feeding. The only sprouts I have are a few sunflowers that are easy to pull out. The grass can take a beating, but since my feeding is tree based, the grass is already stressed there from shade anyway - I basically have made mulch areas out of the areas beneath the trees I feed in.

Hope this gives you some ideas! With all your roses and perennials, I would think you'd have great cardinal habitat.

Linda/patchwork said...

Well, at least it's precipitation of some sort. It seems to keep missing us.
We did have a tiny bit of rain. But, we'll take it. And, pray for more.

Our daughter is over in Argonia...for now, anyway. Having lived in North Dakota, they have the gear for snowy days. And, they're very glad it's not as cold as it is up there, in the frozen north.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Linda, she's not too far from us at all. We're halfway between Haysville and Clearwater, so as the Blogosphere goes, we're next door neighbors!

Lea said...

I love seeing the birds at our feeders! Like you, we have discovered that the Black Oil Sunflower is the best to buy. We have 5 hanging feeders, two ground feeders (for the Doves), and three suet feeders. The ground under the hanging feeders is always busy with small birds (Pine Siskins mostly) cleaning up the spills. We get a wide variety of birds including Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Woodpeckers.
Lea's Menagerie

Janet QueenofSeaford said...

Interested in why you don't like safflower seed? Mine is quite popular. You do have a lot of bird activity! Wow. I have a duel feeder that has safflower on one side and a fruit and nut mix on the other (REALLY popular) and a thistle feeder and a couple suet feeders.
Love your Pied Cardinal...did you see my post on the Leucistic sparrows?
ps- see you are getting more snow..wowo!!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Janet, None of my birds will eat the safflower seed. It just gets left on the feeders as trash. Can you tell which of your birds are eating it so happily? Either I don't have the same species coming in...or my Kansas country birds "don't like that fancy, city-stuff"! LOL!

I missed your post on leucistic sparrows; I'll go back and check it out!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Lea, it sounds like you have a great mix of birds coming in to your feeders! Isn't it fun?