Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Birds in Snow in My Backyard

We don't usually get too much snow here on the west coast of British Columbia...mostly we get rain, rain, and more rain. But every once in awhile we get a few centimeters (or a few inches, for those of you who aren't on the metric system). I miss the snow from where I grew up back east so it's always a welcome treat when it happens.

When the snow falls I make sure that my backyard birds get extra food. We already have a bird seed feeder and two suet cages; one cage is squirrel-proof and jay-proof or there'd never be any suet at all. But when the weather turns nasty I also spread extra bird seed along the wooden railing of our back deck. Then the varied thrushes come a-calling.

Thrushes are about the same size as American robins (which are from the thrush family) and their chirp is very similar. Just like robins, they usually eat from the ground or in trees and not from hanging feeders. The thrushes hang out in the surrounding trees (mostly evergreens) and seem to be waiting every morning for me to put out the seed. Then they descend and I can hear them singing happily as they peck away. They have a beautifully melodic song that never fails to make me smile. They're a fairly shy bird so can be hard to get pictures of but when it snows they get a little more bold.

Varied Thrush

The other ground-feeding bird that enjoys having extra seeds spread out on my deck is the Spotted Towhee. They can be found in our backyard year-round, often half-hidden in the surrounding oceanspray bushes.

Spotted Towhee in Snowy Oceanspray Bush

I have quite a number of chestnut-backed chickadees that have enjoyed feasting at our place this year. This winter I started feeding them peanuts from my hand. Now I just have to step out onto the back deck, or anywhere in the yard for that matter, and the chickadees materialize. I've had a chickadee in my hand, one on my arm, and one on my head all at the same time. They're also very fond of landing on the end of my telephoto lens. They get a little crazy when it's peanut time. They're one of my favorite birds to photograph and if I ever need something to cheer me up, feeding chickadees by hand always does the trick.

I got a lot of chickadee pictures during our recent snowfall...

Chickadee on Snowy Pine Tree Branch

Chickadee on Oceanspray in Winter

I pour hot water over the birds' frozen-over water dish every morning but I still often see them eating snow.

Chickadee with Snow on Beak

Besides the chickadees, I also have one red-breasted nuthatch that will eat peanuts out of my hand. I usually hear him calling before I see him so I know he's closeby, ready for his peanut. He's unafraid of the chickadees but very cautious if there are steller's jays around. After he's grabbed a peanut he usually calls to me as he flies off with his prize. He's a little more challenging to get pictures of than chickadees, but I managed a couple of shots the other day. He follows me around the yard now too.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch in the Snow

The steller's jays get a little crazed when I'm feeding peanuts to the chickadees and the nuthatch. They follow us around hopefully if I'm in the yard, waiting for a dropped nut here and there. I try to feed them separately so that they don't scare the smaller birds. They're always quite comical to watch but can they ever be greedy!

Steller's Jay Closeup

I hope you enjoyed my pictorial about birds in snow. I'm hoping for another snowfall soon, or at least at end to the constant rain!


  1. Absolutely love your photography. living in NY, I haven't ever seen a Stellar's Jay. So pretty! Thanks for sharing!

    BTW, what ind of camera do you use?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Dorothy! Yes, I guess the Steller's are a west coast phenomenon. ;~) They're pretty, alright...pretty noisy!

    I'm using a Canon 7D camera these days. I also own a 20D and a 40D. I guess the 20D is close to worthless if I ever wanted to sell it but it sure served me well at the time.


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