I've been watching the little dark-eyed juncos at the bird feeder today. They keep hopping onto the tube feeder and then quickly off. I did some reading, and found that they are ground feeding birds, so would really rather peck some seed from the ground. I'll have to remember to spill some seed for them.
Some people call them snow birds since they seem to appear at the first snow. Their summer home is in Canada and far northern US, so when we see them in the winter, they are actually just visiting for the better weather!
February is National Bird-Feeding Month in the United States. Congressman John Porter from Illinois introduced a formal resolution to Congress on February 23, 1994 to help raise awareness of the fact that February is the toughest month of the year for birds in most parts of the country. Their natural food supplies - berries and seeds - are often running low and insects have not yet started to emerge.
The winter has been odd this year - feeling more like late spring than winter most days - but it has still been winter for the birds. Their natural food sources have dwindled, and, other than the occasional confused fly or beetle, there are not insects for them to eat.
Rep. Porter's resolution also suggested that bird-feeding was a worthwhile family activity that does not take a lot of time or expense yet provides many hours of pleasure and opportunities for young and old alike to learn about birds. So, if you already have a bird feeder, remember to keep it full. If you don't yet have one, this would be a great time to take up a new hobby!
So, Happy Anniversary to National Bird-Feeding month!
For more information, visit www.birdfeeding.org
Did you hear the sound of a thumb raking over the teeth of a comb while on a recent hike? That's the Western Chorus Frog. The first frog to emerge when the ground thaws.
They are very loud near some wetlands in our area, particularly in the Alden region where small, fishless ponds (vernal pools) abound this time of the year. A diversity of tiny creatures, such as the fairy shrimp (photo to the right), are found in abundance, providing a valuable food source for the recently emerged amphibians, as well as the hatchling salamanders, frogs, toads and turtles.
In larger ponds - those with fish - these small creatures do not survive, as they become food for the fish. But, in the small temporary pools of spring, the young amphibians are able to mature, feed on mosquito larvae, and breed so there will be future generations!
If you live near one of these spring pools, be on the lookout for spotted salamanders! They have a tendency to end up in window wells - the three on the left were rescued from one during a spring hike to look at vernal pools and the critters found there!