Into The Outdoors 2/18/14 Issue


I know that you are probably tired of hearing this, but what a brutal winter we’re having!  As I sit at the computer writing this, it’s snowing like mad out there.  This is, by the way, contrary to what we were told by the various television weather gurus.  
The nasty winter weather has resulted, however, in some interesting phenomena.  For one thing, I saw a flock of robins in a tree in our backyard.  I know that a certain number of robins remain in the local area all year, but the only place I have seen them is in the deep woods.  This is the first time that I have seen them this close to human habitation.  I suspect that heavy snow and bitter cold have driven them closer.
While on the topic of birds, let’s look for a moment at backyard bird feeders.  I cannot remember another winter when I have had to fill the bird feeders more often.  The poor little guys must be really hungry.  In fact, while I am filling the feeders, a number of birds do not even fly away.  There have been chickadees within a foot of me.  It seems that, out of a desire for food, they have lost most of their fear of humans. Had I wished to do so, I may have been able to reach out and grab one of them.  They even sit patiently by waiting while I refill the feeders.  I have never seen anything quite like it before.  I have reached a point that I fill the feeders with nothing  but sunflower seeds.  It would appear that these are the most nourishing, as they are all that the birds seem to want.  If you put a mixture in the feeder, they throw all of the other seeds onto the ground to get to the sunflower seeds.  Therefore, why not just use sunflower seeds?  It should be emphasized that, once you start feeding birds in the winter, they do have a tendency to depend on the feeders being full, so you have a certain obligation to them.
Suet provides a lot of nourishment  for birds.  It is especially attractive to woodpeckers, who need the extra protein.  Once upon a time, I would make my own suet bars for these unique birds. Nowadays I usually just buy woodpecker bars from the local hardware store.  I have to say that they don’t last very long.  I guess that the point of all of this is that,  once again, if you are going to feed birds  in winter, it is a genuine commitment.   In this kind of weather, if you are going to feed them, you have to keep it up.  You can’t let the little guys go hungry.
Next up, we have the ice on the Allegheny River.  As far as I can recall, it’s been a long time since the river has had this much ice.  After all, the ice already went out once, leaving big piles along the banks of the river.  As cold as it has been, it is hard to even imagine how thick the ice actually is.  I was looking at some old pictures I took with my Brownie camera back in the 1960’s, and I think that this year might be even worse.  
On the brighter side, you may have noticed, as have I, that the days are getting a bit longer.  In considerably less than a month, Daylight Savings Time will return.  There is hope after all.

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