Saturday, November 26, 2022

Witnessing more than 50 birds battling for seeds in freshly fallen snow

The birds were battling for the seeds this morning [November 21] as the snow fell so intensely. There were over fifty Evening Grosbeaks fighting for space on the platform, and in the mix were two Red Wing Blackbirds who missed the flight south. They have been here for about a week now and they can hold their own with the Grosbeaks. The five or six Blue Jays are a little weary of all the Grosbeaks, and they wait their turn to get a mouth full of seeds. They must have a big stockpile of seeds somewhere, as they have been hauling them away all fall. There might be a forest full of sunflowers come spring, if any of them start to grow. They probably wouldn’t last very long, as the deer like those little plants.

There wasn’t any greenery showing after the first little snowfall. The herd that comes through here each day has eaten all the wood ferns that were showing above the snow. Anything that was green is gone, and now they are working on the balsam branches that they can reach. The deer got inside the electric fence and really broke it up when they left. One big doe now has a floppy left ear, which doesn’t stand up, but just kind of hangs to the side. She tries to shake it back in place, but it falls to the side again. I haven’t seen her inside the fence again. One of the other does was inside the fence this morning licking the seeds out of a low-hanging feeder, which is higher tonight.


I did get a band on one of the blackbirds and a few of the grosbeaks. I got nipped a couple of times in the process, but still have all my fingers. These grosbeaks may keep moving south as their numbers increase. I had reports of them all over the state. Ellie George reports them eating the seeds on the Ash trees over her way, but not in the numbers I have over here. She even photographed one that was wearing a leg band, but she couldn’t read all the numbers. She went up to the north end of Lake Champlain and photographed the Snow Geese. [She didn’t see] the numbers she normally [does,] but there were a few thousand in a flock there. She got a nice photo of them in flight.


I heard a flock of about thirty Brandt fly over early one morning while I was out feeding the birds. These birds are a little smaller than Canada Geese, and they do a lot of nighttime flying. Many times, I hear them when I’m out checking my owl nets as they fly over at tree top level. A lady sent me a picture of a Red-Throated Loon that came down in the snowstorm in Chittenango. It was captured and taken to rehabber Cindy Page. The bird was not damaged, and it was released in Oneida Lake the next day. With that big storm that is hitting many parts of the state, there will probably be other loons that come down rather than fighting the storm. I once got one in the Old Forge Christmas Count that came down in a snowstorm at Rivett’s Marina, but it had hit a wire and broken its wing. It was so badly damaged that we put it down.

Evening Grosbeak in hand. Photo by Gary Lee.

Out in the area south of Buffalo, what do you do with six feet of snow? Hope there is a ski hill in the area…no snow making needed. Many buildings in the area must have their roofs feeling the weight of that much snow. The Buffalo Bills had to move their game to Detroit, as there was 80 inches in their stadium. That’s a lot of snow to move out and clear that stadium if they must play there again this year. [There was a] shooting in Colorado Springs at a LGBTQ Night Club where a shooter with an AR-15 style rifle killed five people and wounded 25 in less than a minute. He was subdued by patrons until the police arrived, which saved many more lives. How many more of these hate crimes or school shootings does it take to get these military weapons off the street?


It has been hard to get a look into the night sky with all the clouds. [However,] just last night looking out my big window over the computer, I did get to see a few falling stars until the clouds moved back in. It was going to be a major event a couple of days earlier when hundreds were supposed to be falling from the sky in a real light show. This is going to happen again in December, so let’s hope for clear skies then. We did get tracking snow, but then it snowed so hard they were covered up before you could catch up to the deer…and if you did you probably wouldn’t be able to see it. I’ve killed some nice bucks in this same situation, but not this day.


Please warn your children to stay off the ice on local ponds and lakes, as one or two cold nights won’t make them safe enough to walk on. The snow we got will insulate the ice made, and unless it wets up, it will not freeze much more under the snow. Let us not follow tracks in the snow to a hole in the ice and the loss of a child or loved one…stay safe and off the ice.


Might have to put on the skis and go for spin out back, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Snow Geese in flight by Ellie George.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

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