Snow, snow

Snow, snow, go away.

That was my thought when I sat down to write this article, as I had just previously taken a peek at the long-term report on the weather link of the Internet. It tells me that we are going to have five consecutive days of snow and ice crystals. Yet only yesterday, I spent the full day in sunshine riding about on my jitney, while talking to the animals.

The winter population of wild birds at WestWind Farms is pretty scarce this winter, for a number of reasons -the least of which is the fact that the winter has been relatively open, and it is not hard for them to satisfy their appetites out in the bare patches of open fields.

The second reason is also the fact that I no longer have any birds in my aviary. This seemed to attract them to the area, and they felt completely safe dropping in through the two-inch holes in the nylon netting that covered the top. There they could share the feed that I daily put out for the winter-hardy ornamental pheasants and fancy ducks.

The third reason is that we have two very efficient barn cats, Mike and Molly, which are not averse to adding a wild bird to their mice and shrew lunches. That being the case, I am no longer able to fill the bird feeders that I have filled in the past. Cats are cats, and I have no intention of changing their natural instincts.

Nevertheless, by the time this column rolls off the press we will be well into the first week of March, and the early arrivals will be returning from the south in a short number of days. It is time for you to get out and clean out all of your birdhouses and get them ready for the early arrivals.

In years past, I have seen robins return in the second week of March and bluebirds in the hedgerows the following week. I have found ground-nesting horned larks sitting on eggs as early as the first day of April with a snowcap over their nest. The killdeer will be running across the bare patches in the garden, and the song sparrow will be singing on the fence.

Not last night, but the night before that, the weather was well above freezing, so I took the opportunity to sit on our front porch for just a few minutes. I thought I might hear a coyote yodeling, but that didn’t happen. What I did hear though, was the who-who-hoot of the great horned owl. It was so loud that I know it came from our back corner woods and was answered by a faraway call, across the road west of here.

Owls nest by recycling an old crow’s nest, as nesting material is hard to find under the snow. They lay their eggs in the dead of winter so the hatching date coincides with the disappearing of the snow. Mother Nature by this time has a multitude of mice scurrying around looking for places to hide, as the grass has not yet started to grow. The owls’ babies are well fed by both parents and are flying well on their own by the time the first cutting of hay arrives. It is then that they sweep low over the fields as they learn to catch their nighttime lunches on their own.

Spring, as they say, is just around the corner.

Take care, ‘cause we care.




Barrie Hopkins