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Posts Tagged ‘Blue Jays’

snowy

Happy 2013! I hope you enjoyed a pleasant holiday season and wish you all the best for the upcoming year.

As you grow older, time seems to speed up. With each passing year, the days and weeks grow shorter and shorter. Can it really be that we are already nearly two weeks into 2013? Amazing. With each passing year, a big snowstorm becomes more and more of a bother and less and less fun, so perhaps it is just as well that the winter is speeding by.

Here is southeastern Ontario, we had a white Christmas, with a significant snowfall a few days before the 25th. This was followed up after Boxing Day with a major storm that blanketed the landscape with an additional foot of snow.

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We’ve also had some crisp, cold days, with the temperature dipping below -20 C. This is rather reassuring to those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 60s. It seems “right”, the way winter is supposed to be. But actually, all the snow and cold has been something of a mirage. In spite of winter cold snaps and a snowfall that set a one-day record in Montreal, a few hours east of here, December was warmer than normal. It just shows how deceptive appearances can be.

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The Weather Network had this to say about December:

Temperatures across southern Ontario were a couple of degrees above normal for December,” says Dayna Vettese, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. “Normally, Toronto sits at about 1°C for daytime highs in December, but in December 2012, Toronto was 4°C. The same goes for southwestern and eastern Ontario.

After a nippy start to the New Year, temperatures for January have taken an upswing too. Today, the mercury climbed above 0 C and light precipitation fell as rain.

blue jays

In fact, if you are 27 years old or younger, you’ve probably never experienced a colder-than-average month (global average, local conditions vary).

Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman notes the last cooler than average month globally occurred in February, 1985 (almost 28 years ago), “the year the hit film “Back to the Future” [the original, not the sequels] first hit theaters”.

“To put it another way, if you are under the age of 27, you have never experienced a month in which global average surface temperatures came in below the 20th century average,” Freedman writes. (Washington Post)

The weather’s just not what it used to be.

joe crow

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snow1

Except for a few little spats, Winter has been gentle so far this year, with many unseasonably mild days and little snow. On Thursday, he decided it was time to get tough, and our first real storm of the season settled in. Freezing rain began to fall in the wee hours of the morning, and by mid-day, everything had a coating of ice.

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Over the course of the afternoon, the freezing rain turned to snow. I kept the feeders filled and the blue jays and chickadees took full advantage of the handout. Birds would just as soon do their own foraging, and with the mild winter weather we’ve had to date, business has been slow at the feeders, but with a storm underway, the birds were anxious to stock up.

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Even Little Red dropped by, once those pesky blue jays cleared out.

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The snow continued through Friday, far exceeding the 4 inches predicted by the weatherman. By Saturday morning, the ground had a blanket of more than a foot of snow. The storm had moved on, and Saturday was sunny and clear. Wow! What a winter wonderland! Everywhere you looked, the world was postcard perfect. It sure felt like winter too, with the temperature plunging. On Sunday, another beautiful day, we woke to the mercury crouching low in the thermometer, -30°. A gardener is grateful for a good blanket of snow when the temperature dips so low.

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When the snow slipped from branches, it exposed the initial layer of ice, sparkling in the sun.

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As the sun set on Saturday evening, it bathed the snowy landscape in a warm glow, a beautiful ending to the day.

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bluejaypack

My birdfeeder attracts an assortment of the usual suspects, Chickadees, American Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches, Mourning Doves and others. However, by far the dominant visitors in both numbers and attitude are the Blue Jays. Dozens of them take over the feeder each morning when I put out fresh seed, keeping the smaller birds at bay. In an effort to lure the Blue Jays to a separate location and allow the smaller birds better access to my main feeder, I set up a second feeder behind the house this fall.

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I stock the second feeder with striped sunflower seed, instead of the smaller oiled sunflower, and add peanuts and a bit of cat kibble. The feeder is definitely a hit, and while it hasn’t lured the Blue Jays totally away from the main feeder, it has helped. I can watch the new feeder from my kitchen window, and while the blue marauders aren’t good neighbours to their feathered peers, it is a delight to watch these beauties come and go. Such handsome birds!

Few smaller birds visit this feeder, at least while the Blue Jays are around, but I did notice Downy and Hairy woodpeckers stopping by. I attached a suet feeder for the woodpeckers to the post underneath the feeder, where it would be kept dry and the woodpeckers would have less competition from the Blue Jays. As you can see in the first photo, this wasn’t entirely successful, but the woodpeckers do approve of it, and a steady stream of the black and white Hairies and Downies appreciate the suet.

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In Birds at Your Feeder, a compilation of research from Project Feeder Watch, authors Dunn and Tessaglia-Hymes note that groups of 15 to 50 jays may spend the winter together within a relatively small area and concentrate on one feeder. Many flock members or their offspring may return to the same wintering area in successive years. Flock turnover is high as about half of adult Blue Jays die each year.

Blue Jays usually carry off several food items from each visit, filling their gullet before taking flight. Blue Jays may travel as far as 2 1/2 miles with their food and in fall, this behaviour makes them important seed distributors. Plants with heavy seeds, such as oaks with their acorns, may depend on Blue Jays as distant dispersal agents. Of the many species of creatures that rely on acorns as a food source, only Blue Jays carry them far from the parent tree and bury them in sites where germination is possible.

birdsatyourfeeder

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