Winter Brrrds!

I won’t kid you … to plagiarize a familiar Christmas song, the weather outside is (and has been) frightful. Do I blame this on the Groundhog, who boldly declared there would be six more weeks of Winter, or, do I vent my frustration at Mother Nature, who’s certainly been a bit of a tool lately.

“The Real Winter” arrived the afternoon of February 4th and since then we’ve had a smorgasbord of wicked weather, ranging from high winds, ice, brutally cold temps, to snowfall nearly every day. Last Monday’s snowstorm yielded 8 inches (20 cm) of fresh snow, plus drifts over one foot (30 cm) high. Since that snowstorm, we’ve had minor accumulations of the white stuff nearly every day. Sadly, it seems the only walking I’ve done the past few weeks has been behind a shovel. Sigh.

The weather wackiness continues as it seems we will soon reverse course and get balmy temps of 42F (5C) tomorrow. Really?!?!

But, when the Winter weather was better, each walk was filled with Park birds.

I made near-daily jaunts to Council Point Park throughout most of December and January, always stopping at the Safe Haven Tree first, then the little nook where the fallen log and stump is a safe place for me to feed my feathered and furry friends, as the nearby trees and brush allow them an easy escape should a Cooper’s Hawk swoop down. The photos in today’s post, are mostly from January.

I gave the birds some nuts left over from the squirrels’ Valentine cookies, so they were excited to find pistachios, pecan pieces and shelled sunflower seeds at both spots.

I saw (and heard) Rex, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, a few times, either chowing down with the squirrels and other birds near the Safe Haven Tree, or merrily poking the bark for grubs in those few trees he has decimated with his incessant drilling.

I’ve also seen a few of the petite Downy Woodpeckers frequent the treats and often when I reach for the camera, they begin creeping around the trunk of the tree – are they camera shy? The White-breasted Nuthatches flit by, rarely joining the action and they are often too quick and tiny for me to hone in on with the camera and simultaneously fumble with often-frozen fingers.

The Blue Jays have been a welcome addition to my morning rambles as these colorful birds quickly seize the opportunity to snatch a peanut or two, as well as signal to their brethren that the treats have arrived. They are pretty fearless, as they dive down from a tree branch, grab a peanut and return to that perch in just a few seconds. I was happy to get a few up-close shots of this beautiful Blue Jay.

A pair of Northern Cardinals often greet me at the Safe Haven Tree, but, unlike the Blue Jays, the Cardinals are much more timid. The female Cardinal blends right into the tree and, if not for the fluttering of her wings as she makes a hasty trip to ground level to grab a sunflower seed or peanut, I would not even know she has shown up, thus I’ve not taken her photo to date. The male Cardinal, with its bright-red plumage, is easy to spot so I have a few shots of him.

Fellow walker Arnie and I both spotted the bird pictured in the image up top the same day. I took some photos but didn’t download them from the card right away to try to I.D. him/her in a Google image search or bird I.D. site. Arnie paged through his book about local birds and said “I think we are seeing a Northern Mockingbird Linda.” He even brought along the bird book to show me. Here is another photo sans hat and one with a twig in the wrong place. We believe this bird was just passin’ through as we never saw him again after early January.

I know it will be Spring at Council Point Park when I hear the unmistakable call of the Red-winged Blackbird along the edge of the Ecorse Creek.

I hope to get more photos of the Council Point Park birds once I am back to walking there on a daily basis.

The pandemic and the weather have kept me away from Dingell Park too.

Dingell Park is only a mile and a half from Council Point Park but I’ve not been there in a few months. Every February, the eagles perch in trees at Mud Island which is just a stone’s throw away from that small boardwalk along the Detroit River. The frigid weather and resulting ice floes provide excellent fishing opportunities for the Bald Eagles, so many photographers gather in the pavilion area with their tripods and camera lenses as long as my arm. The pavilion area gets quite crowded, so it doesn’t surprise me that this venue’s Facebook page is not filled with the usual eagle shots. Between that gathering, which would not be socially distant, and, because I have resisted taking my car out in the snow and ice, my trip to the annual “eagle fest” will have to wait until February 2022.

Birds in the backyard.

For several years I’ve wanted to participate in “The Great Backyard Bird Count” which is described as an annual event where “people from around the world come together to watch, learn about, count and celebrate birds.” The event even has its own website

However, since I began blogging in 2013, once February rolled around, I was busy writing posts about Groundhog Day, my Blogiversary, Valentine’s Day, or even President’s Day. I decided this year I’d participate.

The 2021 bird count took place from Friday, February 12th through Monday, February 15th. All you needed to do was to pick one of those days and document the exact time and location and what birds you saw during a 15-minute (or longer) period. I chose Monday, February 15th at 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. to participate. Our weather was rather abysmal for this bird count project. After a frigid Friday, and two snowy weekend mornings where I finally got to Council Point Park after an eight-day absence, we had snow in the wee hours of Monday morning, with a major Winter storm on its way later in the day. So, I was prepared to count noses, er … beaks, while I was out shoveling the snow out front, but mostly in the backyard where there are the most trees and bushes.

My official count, which I submitted last Monday evening looked like this:

Yesterday I received a thank you for my participation and a video filled with images of various birds and participants and some stats from the event. These images are some highlights taken from the The Great Backyard Bird Count website/video:

You may view the video by clicking here.

As to my count … first, as I entered the backyard, a Mourning Dove cooed from its perch high up on the wire. It looked at me inquisitively and I said “while you’re up on the wire there, if you see any squirrels chewing on the telephone wires, ask them to cease and desist as AT&T was out AGAIN last week to repair the wires where the squirrels chewed the covering and moisture got inside causing static. Thank you.”

Next was a Black-capped Chickadee nestled in the barberry bush eating tiny red berries. I could have dashed into the house and grabbed some sunflower seeds to sprinkle around, something my fine-feathered friend would have dearly loved, but I’ve stopped feeding the squirrels and birds since the Cooper’s Hawks made my sweet gray squirrel Grady and his friends its prey last Spring. So I kept myself from that impetuous move and got back to the task at hand.

A cheery American Robin perched on the Lilac tree and serenaded me as I shoveled and scraped off the patio. It paid no attention to the lightly falling snow, nor the bitter cold. I turned to the Robin and asked “perhaps next year you’ll migrate and get out of Michigan?” Robins are the state bird of Michigan, but they do migrate. I’d have scrounged around my coat pocket for a peanut or a sunflower seed, but they’d hold no appeal for my red-breasted friend who prefers worms and grubs.

I didn’t take the camera outside last Monday to record the images of the birds, as it was snowing lightly. But a few days before the GBBC I did capture some shots of my neighbor’s Arborvitae that is always brimming with bird life. I refer to this as the “Twitter Tree” because any time I walk by, I hear a cacophony of tweets and twitters no matter the season. There are a multitude of House Sparrows that nest and live in between the branches of this tall evergreen. Sometimes they are hidden, or nestled between the branches and when I walk by, I usually hear a sudden whoosh as they are spooked by my presence and immediately fly up to the telephone wire. This is a good example of what I see every day.

I thumped the snow off the shovel and hurried into the house to jot down my bird tallies before I forgot the details. Hopefully the weather gets better for the birds and me and we get back to the business of creeping toward Spring after these never-ending Winter wallops.

About Linda Schaub

This is my first blog and I enjoy writing each and every post immensely. I started a walking regimen in 2011 and decided to create a blog as a means of memorializing the people, places and things I see on my daily walks. I have always enjoyed people watching, and so my blog is peppered with folks I meet, or reflections of characters I have known through the years. Often something piques my interest, or evokes a pleasant memory from my memory bank, so this becomes a “slice o’ life” blog post that day. I respect and appreciate nature and my interaction with Mother Nature’s gifts is also a common theme. Sometimes the most-ordinary items become fodder for points to ponder over and touch upon. My career has been in the legal field and I have been a legal secretary for four decades, primarily working in downtown Detroit, and now working from my home. I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in print journalism in 1978, though I’ve never worked in that field. I like to think this blog is the writer in me finally emerging!! Walking and writing have met and shaken hands and the creative juices are flowing once again in Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy – hope you think so too. - Linda Schaub
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49 Responses to Winter Brrrds!

  1. I particularly enjoyed the bird accounts and photos.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for explaining how “The Great Backyard Bird Count” works. I was hesitant to participate but might just try it next time around. Your blue jays and cardinals are beautiful!!! I love how colorful they are in the drab winter landscape. Seeing the northern mockingbird must have been thrilling. I’ve never seen one before. He’s pretty in his simple gray and white feathers and looks pretty puffed up against the cold! It’s been the same here, no snow in January, nothing but snow in February. We have arborvitaes, too, a few feet away from our balcony, and it does have an endless supply of bird visitors. Once we had a flock of pine siskins visit, and another time a couple of house finches. Bost mostly it’s sparrows, chickadees, woodpeckers and blue jays.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Linda Schaub says:

      You’re welcome Barbara and do check out their site which explains it more in detail. I didn’t know what was involved either, but I had the pictures of the Park birds and decided to combine it with the GBBC event. It was very cold the day I took the photos of the Northern Mockingbird and it was really puffed up to keep warm. We have a lot of sparrows in the neighborhood … any time I go outside, there is a flurry of them and they sit in the bushes and twitter all day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We love checking our “bird action” a few times a day. They are just delightful. Great shots here. I especially like your Twitter Tree! 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Hi Lisa – I used to feed the birds years ago but a neighbor left his dog out 24/7/365 and we got rats and the pest control service said “no birdfeeders and no birdbaths!” I miss feeding them, so I do love seeing the action in the backyard and at the Park. I follow a woman photographer on Twitter who feeds the birds out of her palm of her hand at a local Metropark. She takes videos of them feeding, plus takes still shots too. I really enjoy her daily videos and she posts them on YouTube and Facebook too. They are funny and enjoyable to watch. The Facebook site is: https://www.facebook.com/jocelynandersonphotography

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Winter wallop is right! We are looking at another quick moving storm today with snow. We are hoping the accumulation is low but then again, you never can tell!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Laurie, a fellow blogger also in your state, told me their rainstorm had suddenly morphed into a predicted 3-6 inches of snow for tonight. The wacky weather this Winter … we have low 40s most of the week. Last Wednesday we woke up to -6.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ally Bean says:

    Whenever I see a photo of a blue jay I’m reminded about how good I look in that shade of blue and how I wish more clothing manufacturers made tops in that color. Not the point of your post, but there you have it. My mind wanders

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sandra J says:

    What a wonderful find, with the Mockingbird, I have never seen one. It is so pretty. I love it when that happens. There are millions of birds out there and it is so exciting to see one that is just passing through. I often wondered how many people participate in the bird count.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      I was happy to see it too Sandra – my first. And it was all puffed up as it was a very cold day. I was glad that Arnie was able to I.D. it because I had searched on a bird site where you identify by coloring only and I was very off. We had a Gold-Crowned Kinglet that lived in the Park in the Juniper tree, but they cut the tree down so no more visits from it. We only saw it in Winter.

      Like

  7. AnnMarie R stevens says:

    Miss Linda………………..thank you for sharing your count of the birds in yhour yard……………………Congratulations!………………………………you are part of 267,866 thousand others who took the time to do that………………….Zowee Wowee……..cool bird watcher

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      You’re welcome Ann Marie – it was fun to do and I’ll bet there would have been a bigger variety had the weather cooperated a little more. I enjoyed seeing that Chickadee too and I was worried about him poking himself on the prickly barberry bush.

      Like

  8. Lucky you to spot a mockingbird!! I love them. We used to have them in California, but they don’t come up to the Portland area. The Great Backyard Bird Count is wonderful. I did it for many years with our boys and we were always amazed at how many different birds we’d see. Your weather sounds cold and unpleasant, Linda. I hope things begin to thaw out for you soon so you can get over to Dingell Park. Maybe the eagles stick around a bit longer if the fishing’s good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      My first mockingbird Sabine – exciting and good thing Arnie found it in that book as I looked online later and did not come up with that choice. I understand they sing up a storm, but it was so cold, the poor thing was all puffed up braving the elements but no song. It was fun doing The Great Backyard Bird Count and I’d like to do it again – maybe with pictures next time. The weather is going to moderate into the low 40s a few days this week. I won’t know how to act as we had one of the coldest Februaries ever, but I know we were not alone. The eagles usually leave once the ice floes break apart or thaw … I think the latest I’ve gone down there was the first week in March and saw nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dave says:

    Red-capped Rex is a dapper-looking guy, even if his “peck’ is annoying. The woodpeckers in our area like the challenge of a chimney and seem to think they can nose their way through metal flues. Woodpecker-on-metal has got to be one of the most annoying sounds ever, especially because it seems to happen most often at dawn. Your photos of the sparrows suggest there could be battles with the squirrels for telephone wire perching once the weather gets warmer. I’ll go out on a limb and say you’d prefer the sparrows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes that Rex is a dapper-looking guy Dave and I didn’t know they’d be nosing through the metal flues. My goodness! I can imagine the noise reverberating throughout the house – it’d be almost as bad as the robin who insists on singing at 4:00 a.m. You’re right – after three or four times calling AT&T for chewed phone wires, I know the sparrows can’t inflict much damage up there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. ruthsoaper says:

    The bird count is interesting and it would be interesting to do it every year so you can compare your tallies. The bird photos are delightful. I love to see them all lined up on the wires. One year my daughter was commenting on how they reminded her of musical notes on a staff. (she is a musician).
    I wasn’t sure how much snow we ended up with until we heard on the news that “Columbus was the winner with 13.1 inches”. I thought well that wasn’t much of a prize. My husband got stuck with the van twice that morning. Once getting out of our driveway then getting into the driveway at the farm. He said there were drifts at the farm as high as 5 feet. He cleared the first 20 feet of driveway with the tractor but said it was too hard on the tractor so hasn’t cleared to rest. He just has a walking path back to the barn. The melt has now begun and looks like it will continue through at least the next 10 days so now we are headed into mud season. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Your daughter has a point Ruth – those birds on the wire do look like musical notes on a staff. If you walk by, there they are singing and twittering away, even on the coldest days. I thought the drifts of a foot were bad enough but five feet – wow! A portion of the patio, I just left as the drifts were high, the snow was hard and not really “scoopable” – thankfully these warm temps will help melt it? Do you think it will all melt Ruth? A lot mentioned today but I still shoveled early this a.m. as I worried the slush would become lumpy ice. Mud season is no good for you (or Ranger!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • ruthsoaper says:

        I think we are going to see a slow melt with temps above freezing during the day then freezing again during the night. We will probably see it turn to ice in places as it melts. Be careful if you go walking.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I was concerned about that ice refreezing this morning Ruth and decided it was better not to walk – had I been able to go this afternoon, I would not have worried at all. Thanks for your concern – I really appreciate it. I am reluctant to take any chances, especially this year with COVID running rampant; I would not want to end up in an E.R. or hospital because I fell and broke something.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Rebecca says:

    I enjoyed your bird photos Linda. Quite a collection! I have a Twitter Tree beside my drive way. I just didn’t know what it was called. Every time I get in or out of the car, it stirs up quite a flutter of wings and loud squawks. Most recently, a flock of robins have been the occupants. Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Thanks Rebecca – glad you enjoyed them. My mockingbird was a real treat and a first for me to see one. It was brutally cold that morning, so he was very fluffed up. Those birds like that big bush and it is a delight to hear them singing. My neighbor also had a pear tree which didn’t drop its leaves until late December. You’d go out in the Winter and the tree would be filled with sparrows singing away. The tree split in half from a 39 mph wind gust (I lost my shed that tumbled across the yard). There were even more birds there than this bush. The robins love singing at 4:00 a.m. here at this house.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rebecca says:

        The mockingbird is our state bird. I’m glad you were able to see one. Occasionally, we have had one outside our den window joyously singing their repertoire of songs around 11:00 p. m. They are beautiful, smart birds that enjoy singing their hearts out. I really enjoy the little sparrows in my yard also. I’m sorry to hear about the tree splitting and your shed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        Yes, I was lucky – right place and right time. I read up on the mockingbird and learned how it likes to mimic other birds and sings non-stop as well as very clear. I do miss that tree as it was full of birds, more than the evergreen.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Joni says:

    Great photos Linda! I especially loved the woodpecker, blue jays and cardinals. And that mockingbird is certainly a chubby little guy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Thanks Joni. One fun thing about feeding the squirrels in the same two places every day is that the birds have become pretty savvy about showing up when I get there. Before it was on the path and the Jays or Cardinals would swoop down and grab a peanut; now they gather there with the squirrels. I hope that continues in the Spring and beyond when there is more food to forage. My first Mockingbird – it was so cold that day and it was in full fluff mode!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Laurie says:

    I blame the Groundhog AND Mother Nature for all this winter. Usually, by this time of year, little snow flowers are starting to make their appearance around here. Crocus leaves are starting to poke up from the soil. This year, everything is white, white, white.

    Loved your bird photos. Mockingbirds typically stick around all winter here, but they are originally southern birds. Michigan may be too far north for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      On my walk through the neighborhood I saw snowdrops right after the new year and I should have taken some photos of them as we had the first of three brutal cold spells shortly after … they are buried under the snow now.

      Like

  14. well as one Lion said to another “that sure was a mouthful”! Tons of birds about! Those Jays are the smartest ones out there!
    I looked up that Northern Mockingbird and have to agree with Arnie!
    Don’t blame the poor old Groundhog or Mother Nature,neither have anything to do with the weather! It just is what it is, but If you really want someone to blame I’m sure Trump did something somewhere to cause this grief!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      First time for either of us to see it … we both think it was just passing through which was too bad. We were thinking the Park held even more delights than usual as we first had those Khaki Campbell domestic ducks coming right up to us to be fed. Too bad it was so cold, because did you see when you looked up the Northern Mockingbird that is mimics other birds’ voices and sings wonderfully. I watched a YouTube video of it singing …. loud and clear and changes throughout one song to reflect different songbirds. Yes, why didn’t I think to blame Trump for the cold spell and lousy weather?

      Like

      • Do you carry binoculars? Most birders do.If you get more serious then you’d get a spotting scope! There is a whole world of these birding types out there! They are almost like another species?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I have binoculars but don’t carry them. The only time I took them was on that cruise on the river boat to see eagles in their nests in August 2019 (not down at the River on the ice floes in February). No eagles and I lugged them and the camera around on a sickening hot day. I’d like to learn more about identifying birds. And wildflowers.

        Like

      • If you want to learn about birds find someone passionate about them or join a birding group? Best way to learn!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I am thinking about joining the Detroit Audubon Society group. They do some trips as a group, but I’ll wait til I’m retired and also when COVID is over to do so. Ann Marie and I were signed up for a two-hour walk with the Detroit Audubon Society birders at Lake Erie Metropark a few years ago. It was one of their organized treks and was free – you did not have to be a member. It poured raining that morning so we decided not to go. First, it’s a ride out there to begin with (30 miles roundtrip) but in the rain and traipsing around in the mud – their trails are going to revitalized this year as they got a grant for improvement. The one, the Cherry Island Trail, is full of mud and is swampy from the water that spills over from Lake Erie onto the path and there are bogs on the other side encroaching onto the trail. They are going to build a wooden overlook which will be a good improvement. The Trumpeter Swan photos I sent the link on one of your posts yesterday were taken by the President of the Detroit Audubon Society – he is not a professional photography and has the same camera I do. I know because he left it on a park bench at the River one time and walked away and realized he left it behind and described it.

        Like

  15. Love your bird pictures Linda! That is amazing how many people participate in counting!

    Liked by 1 person

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