Posted by: atowhee | December 23, 2022


And all that comes with it. Lotsa hungry birds and squirrels, gray light reflected everywhere, cold (it was only 27F at 10AM), And the slippery surface was causing some birds to do the splits or flutter to regain balance.

“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away…”
–Paul Simon

Those ground-feeding birds who hop, not walk, to their destination had the most difficulty. Their splayed toes and the little hooks at the end were not suited for a smooth, hard, slick iced surface. Even if a junco or towhee toppled over it would not be badly hurt, falling a couple inches onto the ice. Not the threat it is to us large, slow-moving mammals. The squirrels seemed totally adept at maneuvering across the surface–what you’d expect from some of nature’s finest gymnasts.

Here is a male towhee, humiliated in front of smaller sparrows and goldfinches, slipping and having to resort to wing action to keep from tumbling over. I saw the much smaller juncos skidding and legs splayed as well.

Juncos were up before the sun this morning. By 830AM a dozen bird species had come to our garden and feeders. It was still 25 degrees. At 840AM the juncos were thick on the ground, or, actually, thick on the ice on the ground. At 1030AM it was still only 27F. By noon it was still 27, and later at 2PM.
Mid-morning the squirrels were bounding around, sitting atop the fence, sitting in the hanging feeders. At least ten of them, fur fluffed for insulation.


Usually the flickers–female here–go for the suet feeder. In the cold, with the ground unavailable for foraging, this may be the best source of carbs and calories. In winter here, bird life is shaped by the calculus of calories.

There’s not enough winter ice west of Hudson’s Bay. The local polar bear population in that part of Canada is dying off–click here.

I am reading The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife. It’s his account of being responsible for the six or more ravens resident at The Tower of London. Peanuts in the shell are on their diet, just like the three smaller corvid species that feed in our bird garden. It’s an interesting read if you are a ravenholic, or are simply fascinated by a bunch of ancient British traditions/legends. Their tower ravens are the same species as we have here in Oregon. The raven is one of the few bird species found across the globe, except for Antarctic.

This winter day:

954 Ratcliff Drive SE, Marion, Oregon, US
Dec 23, 2022
20 species

Mourning Dove  17
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  5
American Crow  X
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Bushtit  20
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
European Starling  20
House Finch  2
Lesser Goldfinch  X
American Goldfinch  X
Fox Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  35
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

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