Thursday, February 25, 2010

More snow?!

Yup, that's right. As of this posting, more snow is falling throughout the Garden State. The Revenge of Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse: Redux, or whatever you might call it - the snow is back for another round. That will probably mean driving through some slush, shoveling out some driveways and sidewalks, and brushing off cars. It can also mean tons of fun, though!

This is my little sister, Alyssa, peering through the window of the snow fort we made after the last big snow storm. We used paper recycling bins to pack snow into bricks and built up the walls to about four feet high. And of course some intimidating icicles were needed to help deter enemy attacks.

After working construction for two or three hours it was nice to sit back and relax with a cup of hot chocolate inside our newly built snow fortress. My wife, Elizabeth, was thanked with a snowball to the back of the head! Six-year olds. Sheesh.

I went back over the next morning to play with Alyssa before work, and ended up burying her in the snow. Some husbandly revenge, perhaps.

A few days later my Dad brought over my other two little sisters (ah, the joys of a modern family) to play for a bit in the snow. We ended up entrenched in a classic snowball fight. Sarah took great pleasure in dodging Dad's attack:

The snow and ice also grant some great opportunities for photography.

Bundling up and drinking hot chocolate while watching a movie is nice, but don't ignore the great possibilities of a fun snow day! Go sledding, take a hike, build a fort! And of course if you're a bird-watcher don't forget to stock those feeders!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Obligatory Snow Day Post!

On an average day we might have two or three Dark-Eyed Juncos on our feeders, along with a Black-Capped Chickadee and maybe a few other individuals. We're on the third floor and have a modest setup (two suet cages and a sock feeder) in the branches next to our balcony.

On the evening before the big storm of February 10th, I had actually used up the last of our seed and dumped the remnants of the bag on the thin layer of snow that was leftover from last week's storm. Whoops - there was actually more left than I had thought. Oh well, the birds will find it...holy moly, did the birds find it! We woke up to a literal carpet of juncos on our balcony, furiously kicking up snow to locate as many seeds as they could. At any given time throughout the day I counted between 10 and 13 juncos.

In addition to what have become daily visits from the Red-Breasted Nuthatches, the White-Breasted Nuthatches returned today and posed for a little bit before heading to the suet feeder.

Of course a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees showed up and patiently waited their turn as the more aggressive Tufted Titmice and House Sparrows hogged the suet feeders. Once in awhile one would hop up to the pine cone feeder (made by my 5-year old sister Emma) and take a few nibbles.

I sprinkled some more seed out on the balcony and eventually this male House Finch joined in on the buffet. I've seen them around before (usually on our sock feeder during the spring), but it had been awhile and it was nice to see that splash of red. Another bird joined the feeding frenzy - a new visitor to our home!

A White-Throated Sparrow jostled for dominance with a few of the male juncos, but there was plenty for everyone. Soon enough we had another new bird for our "yard" list! A Red-Bellied Woodpecker flew in and started slowly making his way up one of the branches.

There's just something about the red on some birds that looks great against the white and gray of a snowy day.

Unfortunately the third new bird we added during the snow was the European Starling. I guess the rest of the birds had finally tipped them off. Thankfully only three or four actually ended up in the tree, and they only fed on the suet for a short time before moving on. Kind of strange, actually. Perhaps they sensed my displeasure with their presence.

There is nothing more appealing than the sight of a bright male Northern Cardinal in the snow - again, back to that red thing. Unfortunately he never really came out into the open, so this photo was all I could muster:

Now is the time when a bird's resources are the most scarce! Seeds, nuts, and any lingering insects have totally vanished after a snow storm like the one the east coast just suffered - birds can't find 'em and so they need the help of our feeders more than ever. If you've been putting it off - don't any longer! Get out there and fill 'em up with plenty of seed and suet. The birds will thank you. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count!

GBBC 2010 has arrived, and will be kicking off this weekend. It will run from February 12th through February 15th - find out all the info you'll need at the official site. The event is a fun way to contribute to the field of ornithology, helping researchers find out which species of birds may be in certain areas, and which have declined (or perhaps even increased) in recent years. The only thing you need to participate is 15 minutes of time to bird-watch over the weekend!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Machias Seal Island

During the summer I traveled out to Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine to visit the Atlantic Puffin colony. These are really fascinating birds that are tough to study from shore, so the trip was very exciting and afforded me some up-close looks at the pelagic birds. Check out my post on Nature's Domain here and all of my puffin photos on my Flickr page here.