Winter Visitors

It has snowed since I last wrote here, several inches of wet, heavy snow that cover the ground and bow down the branches of the conifers.  With the arrival of the snow, the birds, which frequent our feeders in all seasons, seem to come in even greater numbers.  Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Pygmy Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches, House Finches, California Quails, Northern Flickers, and Downy Woodpeckers are our most common visitors, while others such as Evening Grosbeaks and (unusually for this late in the year) Red-winged Blackbirds pass by occasionally.

Goldfinches in the apple tree

We had a few brief hours of sunlight yesterday, so I decided to attempt to take a few photos.  Small birds are difficult; they are almost constantly moving, and then when they do pause for a moment, chances are they either have their back to you or are directly behind a branch.  The two birds above are both American Goldfinches.  In the summer, these birds are a brilliant yellow with (for the males) a noticeable black cap.  In the winter, they don a more subdued plumage, but still with a yellowish hue and their distinctive black and white wings.

Our feeders hang near the old apple tree in our back yard.  You can still see some of the apples hanging in the background of the right hand photo above.

Pine siskin and nuthatch on suet

We always keep our birds supplied with suet during the winter months.  The bird on the left is a Pine Siskin, another finch, while the bird on the right is a Pygmy Nuthatch, one of our smallest birds.  Nuthatches are particularly difficult to get photos of; instead of remaining on the feeder to eat, they usually just grab a bite of food and then fly off.  Chickadees, which are probably my favourite winter birds, do the same thing.

I prefer taking photos of the birds on a branch or on the ground rather than on a feeder, but sometimes that is the only way I can get a photo at all.

Winter deer

Of course, birds are not our only winter visitors.  Mule Deer are also frequent visitors to our yard throughout the year.  They love to eat the bird food on the ground and any fallen apples that they can find.  We usually see the does more often, but we have several bucks who visit our yard as well.  The deer in the photo above was standing under our neighbour’s apple tree and eyeing one of our bird feeders, wondering if it was worth her while to investigate the ground beneath it for food.  However, she was not quite sure about the strange human watching her from the deck and pointing a small black object at her!

I never grow tired of watching the birds and deer and other animals in our yard.  The animals take advantage of the food that we make available to them (not always intentionally) and we in turn take pleasure in observing them and their behaviour.  Watching them reminds me of the interconnected communities of living things which exist everywhere, and that humans are a part of these communities.

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