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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snowy Meal for Bluebirds and Cardinals

"Chip, chip, chip . . ." bounced through the air in my garden this morning as snow began to dust dormant shrubs and forgotten flowerpots.  I scanned the trees searching for a source of the continuing, "Chip, chip, chip." I felt that I must be looking right at it, but could not see the cardinal I knew was there.   Then he appeared hidden in plain sight, perched on a spiked hawthorn branch genteelly picking plump red berries off the tree for his morning meal.  With berries and feathers a perfect match, it is no wonder I initially missed him.
I left the garden to walk along the edge of our field while the season's first snow continued to fall.
An old twisted dogwood sat in the field along with a couple poplar trees for company.  The limbs of the dogwood were filled with birds but what kind?  They were plump like robins and flittered back and forth  through the top of the branches like robins.
But these weren't robins.  While we do have robins living in our woods through the winer,  they weren't here, today, exposed to the wind and snow in the middle of a field.  These birds' wings were bigger compared to their body size than a robin's. Besides quick flights between branches, several of the birds made forays to the grass before returning to the branches above. Then I caught a bit of color. Yes, there is a rusty tint under that wing
Bluebirds! Birds landing in the grass appeared to be finding a few remnant bugs still alive after another warm spell. 
I've recently learned that bluebirds will eat seeds in the winter when bugs are not available, but they do prefer live food.
I have often wondered how insect and worm eating birds survived the winter here where the ground is frozen and bugs either dead or are well-hidden. I know mealworms, which bluebirds love, can be bought all through the winter and some people even raise their own but I worry about them disappearing, falling/crawling off the feeder and burrowing into the ground or just getting lost amid the grass, not doing the birds or my camera lens any good at all.
I see online that there are feeders out there that specialize in mealworms.  Has anyone found a good feeder out there?  I think that I would like to add it to my Christmas list and try to help our flock of bluebirds this winter.  I found one Birds Choice Supper Dome Bird Feeder but it has no reviews.  It looks like it might keep the little squiggly guys from escaping so if anyone has tried it or know of something better, please let me know.
A few fallen branches proved to be choice perches for the bluebirds who continued to hunt their breakfast through the blowing snow.
This female waited patiently for movement in the grass.
She looked right at me, decided the red light of my camera was not a threat nor a prospective meal then turned her attention back toward the ground below her.

Like the bluebird, I turned my attention elsewhere to take in the falling snow as it slowly and quietly changed my viewscape, with highlights of white on the distant field, barely visible beyond Jesse's treehouse.

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