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February 1, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Soaking Up Some Sun

Winter is always a difficult time for birds in North America, but this season has been particularly brutal. Record low temperatures and above normal snowfall have contributed to their struggle.

Last week we had a few rare days of 100% sunshine. Unfortunately it was also extremely cold with high temperature of 1F/-17C. The birds, who had been taking refuge in shrubs and under eaves, ventured out and roosted in the sun.

Even the small amount of heat from the sun was helping them to stay warm. Fluffing up their feathers creates small air pockets in the down near their skin and traps warm air. Feathers are waterproof and provide an outer layer of insulation.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

A family of cardinals has adopted my yard this winter and I have had as many as seven visiting at one time. Both males and females are colorful in winter and are a delight to see.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

The Mourning Doves were also roosting in the sunny tree but this one wandered over to the door looking for dropped seed staying fluffed up while it walked. I have seen them get so fluffy they look like they have lost their heads.

House Finch

House Finch

The House Finches were enjoying some safflower seed in the sun.

Providing food and water allows the local residents to hunker down in place rather than expend energy searching for a meal that is now frozen or buried in the snow. Most of the birds in my yard this winter are not migratory, the juncos are the exception.

Where’s Waldo of Birds

6 House Finch, 1 Cardinal, 1 Junco

By midday my apple tree was “Where’s Waldo” of birds. Click for larger image to see all eight of them. Starlings and House Sparrows were also enjoying the sun higher up in the tree.

Gray Squirrel

Gray Squirrel Eating

I give the squirrels their own food on the ground which helps to keep them off the feeders in the tree. They don’t like safflower or thistle and the sun flower feeder is impenetrable.

On this afternoon Mr. Squirrel was enjoying some bread and leftover carrot cake that I lost in the back of the frig. The winter has been tough for the squirrels too. This little one has lost most of the fur on his tail.

Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. It is now hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Sheila (Book Journey) / Feb 1 2014 11:30 am

    Oh! I just looked at the squirrels tail! You have inspired me to toss out some break. I didn’t think about how hard this cold was on our furry and feather friends.


  2. Sheila (Book Journey) / Feb 1 2014 11:36 am

    Break??? Gah. BREAD. Where did that typo come from? LOL


  3. Suko / Feb 1 2014 12:50 pm

    Leslie, as usual your photos are beyond exquisite. The cardinal’s color is fabulous! I love how round the birds appear in the first two pics. I found most (6/8) of the birds in the “Where’s Waldo” shot but will have to click to see them all. Thanks for another wonderful post!


  4. Anne / Feb 1 2014 2:10 pm

    The birds all look puffed up. To keep warm, I guess.


  5. Greg / Feb 1 2014 5:49 pm

    Great pictures, really liked the “Where’s waldo” one! Love to see cardinals come by in the winter. Nice that you feed the squirrels… the ones around here do make forays at the bird feeder, usually unsuccessfully, but also enjoy all the seed that the birds spill all over. 🙂


  6. BermudaOnion / Feb 1 2014 8:57 pm

    It’s been tough for the birds down here too. I threw out some bread crumbs the other day and I was amazed at the birds who came.


  7. notesoflifeuk / Feb 2 2014 10:23 am

    Beautiful birds and I love the squirrel too. I don’t think I’ve seen a squirrel before who has lost some of the fur from it’s tail. Poor thing.


  8. Arti / Feb 3 2014 8:57 pm

    It’s great that you have so many varieties of birds, colourful ones too, even in mid-winter. I’d never seen a Cardinal. Don’t think I ever will not here in Western Canada. But just today I saw a whole bunch of Bohemian Waxwings gathering on my apple tree in the backyard for the remaining fruits there. It was snowing, and I did try to take photos, a lot, but none came out good. But it was such a wonderful sighting.


  9. Louise / Feb 5 2014 6:17 pm

    Great photos Leslie as ever. It’s amazing how many birds stay around for your winter. I like their little puffy bodies, they’re making their own self contained donnas (quilt for you maybe) aren’t they?


  10. stacybuckeye / Feb 7 2014 9:46 pm

    My head is so full of business that I never thought of feeding the squirrels! Gage and I watched two lady cardinals in out tree this morning while the sun was out.


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