Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Minnesota's Long Dark

I took a little time off from blog posting around Thanksgiving. Art and I spent our days off cleaning house, trying to unclutter a bit. Where does the stuff come from? With the warm weather definitely gone until spring it was time to think about the long winter spent mostly indoors. My nesting instincts really kick in. Cooking and baking become more satisfying. Soups and Minnesota "hotdishes" are the basis of comfort food to me. I don't mind the cold of our long winters but the shortness of our days is hard. We leave for work in the dark and honestly by 4PM when I get home it's starting to get dark. It's completely dark by 6PM when Art gets home. That doesn't leave any time for birding or picture taking unless I have the day off. I was surprised when I downloaded the last pictures from my camera and saw that the date on the last photos taken was 11/20/2008! Moving to the day shift for my job has certainly put a crimp on my birding time. I am NOT complaining though.
So, all I have to show are pictures from 11/20. Pine siskins had arrived just the day before. Pine siskins are a new yard bird for me here in New Hope. There were many that spent the summer at Hasty Brook but I had never seen them here before. They stayed for a few days and then seem to have moved on.
I noticed there were fewer house finches around the yard this summer and I've only seen a handful so far this winter too. I wonder why the numbers dropped? I like their summer song and the flash of color is a treat in our colorless winter landscape.

I try to keep the peanut wreath filled but these blue jays find them quickly and empty it within a few hours. Even with the windows closed you can hear these brash birds announce their arrival. Whole peanuts in the shell are the only things these guys will take from my feeders. It's worth a few dollars to bring them to my yard.
I noticed a common grackle and a pair of red-winged blackbirds hanging around the feeders. When they weren't gorging on oilers they huddled puffed up, low in the lilac hedge. They've moved along now. Maybe they're lounging on a beach somewhere.

The lovely city of New Hope made us remove our brush pile over the summer. I was pretty upset as I think that brush pile was more instrumental in bringing birds to my yard than anything else. BUT, I immediately noticed that once the brush pile was gone the number of house sparrows dropped drastically. I could handle that. But now that the colder weather is here and since I think I'm the only one feeding birds in my neighborhood, the house sparrows have come back in droves. I don't have any issues with folks that trap them, I just can't do it. (wimp).


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Enjoyed your post.We too feed the Blue Jays whole peanuts and think it is worth every penny to see them more regularily.Winter has it's drawbacks with the shorter daylight hours,but I still like it.

KGMom said...

Oh, Lynne--I understand--I don't think I could trap HOSPs either.
Your town made you get rid of your brush pile. Interesting--tough town.

Vickie said...

I love your pine siskin photos! I was just researching suet recipes this morning and wondering about the squirrels and racoons. Have you found a solution to non-bird raiders?

...and a p.s. I've been on a cleaning binge, too. There seems to be an urge to unclutter when winter announces its arrival.

possumlady said...

Oh yes, dark here out East too.

I put out unshelled peanuts for the jays but the squirrels love them too. I was starting to get annoyed by the large number of squirrels in my yard but The Washington Post just had an article about the complete lack of acorns in the area this year. People are actually seeing thin and dead squirrels! So, I don't feel so bad when they eat up their fill of peanuts. Crows have also found the peanuts but I love to watch them try to stuff as many as they can into their mouths. Four seems to be the limit.

Shellmo said...

I loved how your siskins occupied every perch at your feeder - it made me smile!

Tina said...

Good to see you posting again...I hated going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. You just feel like you missed the whole day! Like your pic of the finches..they seem to feed all day long, wind, rain, snow..gobble gobble.
saw this address and remembered how much you like these guys.. you prob already know about it. but if not :)

NCmountainwoman said...

I loved the pictures. Our Pine Siskins appear to have moved on as well, and I'm just as glad. I can't put out peanuts because of the squirrels. And ours do have plenty of acorns this year.

Mary said...


Now that you are on day shift, you know bird photography is for the weekends. I have a hard time dealing with that now since the sun is setting as I arrive home. But, late January, maybe we can get backyard bird watching on Tuesday after work! We leave in the dark and come home just before dark but it will change in two months.

We can work on our own nest now - get those lights twinkling for some holiday spirit.

You convinced me to buy peanuts in the shell - I saw a Blue Jay land a month ago. I don't understand why they are scarce here.

I'd like to break down our brush pile but it doesn't belong to me! The good sparrows like it, so I'm OK with it.

Great backyard birdie photos!


Ruth said...

That is quite the bird buffet you have. We had a few transient Pine Siskins last year, but I have seen none around this year. Great pictures!

ivars krafts said...

Glad to have you back posting!
I look forward to the winter as helping me accomplish the things indoors that I've been putting off -- recreational reading, studying the manuals and watching tutorials for new computer programs/camera equipment, experimenting with camera & computer, complaining about the cold and dark, justifying sleeping later in the morning, -- and the list goes on.

Lynne said...

Ruth, I like winter too but especially like the cold, sunny days.

Donna, we don't live in an affluent suburb but the city has lots of regulations.

Vickie, I feed store-bought suet cakes and Julie Zickefoose's suet dough recipe all winter but it has to be above a squirrel baffle or my FAT squirrels will inhale it!

Christine, my squirrels are HUGE! The eat well in my yard. I can't deny them in winter though. Everybody's got to eat.

Shelley, the siskens were everywhere, and then they were gone. :(

Tina, THANK YOU for the link! It's so neat.

Carolyn, I know the siskens can get kind of bossy, but I was glad to be able to add them to my yard list. I feed the peanuts in a wreath which hangs above a squirrel baffle.

May, it wasn't until the brush pile was gone that I noticed the house sparrows had (mostly) left too. I'll just have to make sure I get out on my days off for my birding fix!

Ruth, I really enjoy my regulars and the siskins were special.

Ivars, between work, Thanksgiving and my dizzies quite a bit of time went by! I actually do like the confinement that winter brings. Like you, I have a HUGE stack of books waiting! Sleeping late sounds good too! :)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lynne,
Did someone turn you in for that brushpile or was it visible from the street? Can you sneak another one out there for the winter when less people are out & about? So many birds (and critters too) love my brushpile and I would hate to give it up. At least you've still got some nice birdies coming around to your feeders.

Linda in Erie said...

I find the house sparrows very entertaining. I love it when they come in all together. They other birds, woodpeckers, bluejays and cardinals only come morning and evening but the sparrows are there all day to enjoy. I love your bluejay photo. They really are pretty birds.

Leedra said...

Enjoyed this post, glad you are back. Missed you. I work evenings and I know it would limit my photography if I was switched back to days.

Susan Gets Native said...

Looks like you scored the siskin mother load there.
I haven't seen any this year and it's supposed to be an irruption year for them. Everyone ELSE has them.
: (
All I can say is to concentrate on the inside and remember that Spring will come....someday.

HellZiggy said...

Gorgeous blue jay!

We've got a brush pile in our back yard too, but no one has ratted us out to the city yet. I'm not sure how strict Crystal is on such things... But we hang out with our back yard neighbors so they wouldn't file any complaints anyway.

~other Sharon

KatDoc said...

Jealous of your (and Carolyn's) Pine Siskins. I very rarely get them at home, and haven't seen any around here yet this year.

Yes, I can take the cold of winter, but it's the dark that bums me out. Dark when I leave at 7am, dark when I leave work at 6pm, too dark to do much of anything.

House sparrows I can tolerate in the winter (I trap them in spring when they try to get into my bluiebird and martin housing) but I hate starlings. They just rediscovered me and the nasty things swarm all over my feeders. Ugh!


Jayne said...

Come to think of it Lynne, we've had fewer house finches too. The pine siskin flock moved on, and the feeder activity has been rather sparse for the past couple of weeks.

Eve said...

Great birds at your feeder Lynne. I havent had a lot of feeder birds of late. I think I need to spruce up my feeders or something. I think when there's not a lot of snow they spend a lot of time feeding on all the goodies Mother Nature has left them.

Richard said...

I'm overloaded with Goldfinch, Pine Sisken, House Finch, and Sparrows. I just like all the birds, so all are welcome here even if they are eating me out of house and home.

jalynn01 said...

I work afternoons and when I get off it's dark here too. Hate that!! Glad to see you back into blogging. This time of year I try to clean and unclutter before the Christmas stuff comes out and goes up. Squirrels can be entertaining so keep a watch for their antics. They are good subjects to shot (with the camera)

troutbirder said...

I'm still waiting for my first pine siskins in my backyard. The fact that you have them in the Twin Cities give me hope that this might be my first years. Loved all you bird photos!

Kallen305 said...

Lynne, I too am like you and could never trap a HOSP but don't have issues w/ people who do.

I will gladly trade you some finches for some siskins. I have about 12 house finches that are in my yard all day. I have never seen a siskin so it would be a real treat.

What a bummer about your brush pile. I built one for my birds this year and the birds love it (especially the HOSP's though). The juncos and carolina wrens go in there too and it's fun to watch them.

Bird Girl said...

Nice to see your post, Lynne - love the siskins! It's good to get some work done and take a break from birding - we all need to do that at times!