My Snowbirds Blew In On Hurricane Sandy
By The Calendar, Good Timing. By The Weather Map, Ooops!
We were lucky. Hurricane Sandy made landfall a few hundred miles south of us that October Day in 2012, so we were on the fringe. Our region had some power outages and we saw images of trees that had fallen on houses and vehicles, and some low lying areas experienced flooding. Our south and east facing coasts got hammered, though.
Where I live, in Southeastern Massachusetts, we didn’t lose power, although I heard of a couple of neighborhoods that lost power. We’re almost an hour away from the coasts of Cape Cod and Rhode Island so we weren’t troubled like they were. Luckily for our household, it was just a windy, rainy day from mid-morning to mid-evening.
The birds at my feeder had been in a feeding frenzy for about 36 hours prior to Sandy’s landfall. They do that before any storm. It’s my understanding that there’s a sensor imbedded in their brains that functions like a barometer. When they detect falling atmospheric pressure, they engage in their brand of emergency preparedness.
In recent days I've been on my annual Junco Alert. These Canada residents spend their winters all over the rest of North America, to the south. They’re also known as “snow birds,” a name the Florida natives give to the folks who leave their cold climates and reside in Florida for the winter.
Usually “my” juncos arrive right before Halloween, although last year they showed up at the beginning of October. In retrospect, I wonder if that was an unrecognized harbinger of the unusually mild, snow-less winter to follow. No one hates winter more than I do, and even I couldn’t complain about the winter of 2011/2012.
The thought crossed my mind that the approach of Sandy could impact the juncos’ schedule. Maybe I wouldn’t see them until after Halloween.
Hurricane be damned, I reported to my part time job at a supermarket; there would surely be folks coming in for important stuff like potato chips and cookies. And there were. People were buying up the bread, milk and meats that could be barbequed, but also a ton of snack foods, bottled water and batteries.
I got home shortly after 3 pm as Sandy kicked into high gear, and came down here to the office to bang out a hub before we lost power, if that was to be in our future. I barely got started when my wife, who had spent the day working from home, hollered down that the juncos had just arrived.
When I looked out, I only saw one, but Susan said she thought she had seen a couple of others.
So not all flights were cancelled by Hurricane Sandy. The Juncos arrived at the same time they do every year.
The amazing thing is that they made it safe and sound despite fighting a terrific head wind.
Well, now that they’re here, I eagerly await their departure.
That occurs in late March to mid-April, when Spring and Daylight Savings Time returns, and buds are getting ready to burst on the trees. Winter is over!
Some of My Other Hubs That May Interest You
- A Story About The Birds And The Bees
I've seen pictures and videos of murmurations, and witnessed a rather bland one several years ago, but was this a rare opportunity?
- Life Is Just An O*gy For The Winter Moth
It's an annual phenomenon that occurs from Thanksgiving to the new year, but we don't see the results of its evil doings until spring.
- A Group Of 'Em Is Called A What??
Quick! What do you call a group of tigers? Of dogs? Of rabbits? We don't know who "they" are, but "they" arrived at some pretty interesting titles for members of the animal kingdom. Bet ya didn't know this stuff.
Juncos are members of the sparrow family and generally feed in small flocks. Everything you read about them talks about the fact that they are ground feeders, but I’m here to tell you they’ll land on a perch protruding from the feeder just as readily. They’ll also cling to a mesh bag full of nyjer (thistle) seed.
I used to have tube feeders hanging from poles clamped to the rails of our deck, but last year we had a new deck installed. It’s made of composite material, which I didn’t want to damage by clamping poles to the rails, so I bought the free-standing feeder you see in the picture below. I love it.
It has a small seed tray into which the seed empties via outlets at the bottom of the tube, and below that, a large seed tray upon which cardinals, mourning doves and others can perch and feed.
The seed tray features small drain holes to prevent water from collecting and causing mold to form and seed to rot.
The entire upper section is supported by a pin located just below the squirrel baffle under the feeder. You pull the pin out and the feeder assembly slides down for easy filling. Push it back up, re-insert the pin (it's on a chain, so don't worry about losing it) and your good to go!
They spill enough onto the deck so that more birds can feed on the deck at the same time. My deck is often a flurry of activity with cardinals, gold finches nuthatches, various sparrows, juncos, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, mourning doves and blue jays all feeding simultaneously.
In July, 2012 a hen turkey and her three partially feathered poults started coming onto the deck and feeding a the base of the structure.
Of course, we have squirrels that monopolize the feeder at times, but they have to eat, too.
And, when they’re not hibernating, raccoons will come on the deck at night.
I’ve seen as many as 5 at one time.
I’m not happy about that but I’m at a loss as to what to do to keep them away.
I’ve tried spraying them with one of those “soaker” water guns, but that doesn’t do anything.
When I open the slider, they go on alert, but don’t leave unless I step out onto the deck, and even then they leave begrudgingly and return in a short while.
Plus, I’m not pleased to step out onto the deck with 5 “on alert” raccoons. They can be aggressive and they have formidable teeth and dexterous fingers.
I won’t mess with them beyond trying to scare them away.
I feed all year long despite the availability of the birds’ natural diet during the summer. The widespread use of insecticides by homeowners has reduced the insect population, believe it or not, and the birds have other stress factors.
The physical demand of the breeding season requires increased food consumption, the hatchlings have to be fed almost non-stop, and there’s competition for food from the summer visitors and migrating birds that are simply passing through and pause for a few days R & R.
Plus, I get to enjoy their color and song, it’s interesting to watch them interact with their fledgling offspring at the feeder, and they’ll still feed on whatever insects are around. I can leave my slider open all summer long and not get any bugs in the house…just raccoons.