Not a Fan of Winter But . . .
I am not a particular fan of winter but there are some aspects of it that I find interesting. After a recent snow fall I found multiple tracks in the snow. There was a hide and seek quality to following the tracks, under bushes, behind trees—where will they show up next? It is interesting that different birds leave different tracks. Small sparrows and juncos leave hopping tracks, but Mourning doves leave the trail similar to a child walking in the snow dragging their feet. Then there are the rabbit tracks and their disjointed hopping moving all over the yard. Squirrels leave their own set of unique hopping trails.
I make sure to feed the birds in winter to keep their energy levels up. Birds love sunflower seeds but cardinals, pine siskins and nuthatches also love dried fruits mixed in. The best bird seed mix that I have found has sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, safflower seeds and peanuts—something for everyone. I try to share the wealth of food with other animals including the squirrels, which try to get in the feeder but have to settle for the food I place on the ground for them. The squirrels have a foraging game all their own—with snow flying for those hidden nuggets of food under the winter blanket. I often leave perennial seed heads on dead stalks for the birds and animals to take advantage of. They like Echinacea (coneflower) with its sturdy seed heads that can handle a bird sitting on it and pulling out the individual seeds. I also purchased a heated birdbath so their water doesn’t freeze. The heated birdbath is not very expensive and comes with various mounting features for decks, trees and a stake for the ground. Often I will look out at the yard and find a Mourning dove staring back at me from the birdbath.
Trees and bushes reveal a different form of themselves in winter. Their stark branches, invisible when hidden by their leaves, weave a unique pattern against a cold blue sky. The bushes have a similar quality with little hidden gems of dried berries and little birds popping in and out of their branches. Many bushes offer winter interest with different color branches, like Dogwoods, offering a pop of red color against the winter white of snow. There are hazelnuts with their contorted branches or burning bushes with their brown/red/green winged stems offering a change of texture from the straight brown limbs of most trees in winter.
Housing is important for birds in winter. They live in trees and bushes, but they also seem to like the bird houses that I have hanging from the eaves of my house. I have a few resident sparrows that stay in the houses all year. They have their own little neighborhood along with their own birdfeeder. They chatter when disturbed during their feeding and dart into the bushes to escape notice. Since the birdhouses stay up all year, it is a good practice to clean out the old nesting material at the first hint of spring before the birds return for nesting.
So even though winter may not be something I am fond of, I look forward to the change of scenery in the yard when the bushes and trees shed their leaves. The birds and other wildlife appreciate my efforts to keep them watered and fed. They reward me with their funny antics and snow trails. And sometimes I think they are contemplating me as much as I am of them, when they sit on the birdbath and stare into my home watching my winter antics too.