Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Snow, Stimulus, and Response

Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Male dark-eyed junco.

We don't often get lake-effect snow way down in southeastern Ohio, but we surely are getting it now. We've got six inches on the ground here at the farm and another few inches on the way. After being home for the holiday break since the week before Christmas, our kids are looking at a week of snow days. (The hills are echoing with the cheers of children and the groans of parents). It's a light, dry snow—very powdery—so no danger thus far of a power outage.

Fortunately we're well provisioned inside and are keeping the bird feeders well-stocked outside, too. We have about 35 dark-eyed juncos in the yard most days—more when the snow cover is deep.

This chap (photo at top), fluffed up against the 17ºF cold, was staring me down through the kitchen window, trying his best to let me know that the suet dough dish out front needed a refill.

The birds have us really well-trained. Here's what they do:
They flutter down to the feeder.
Look into it, find nothing.
Then glance in the window with a forlorn look on your face at the clueless humans.
Fly off a short distance when the humans come scrambling out the door, hands full of seed, suet, peanuts, filling the air with apologies.

Like Pavlov's dogs, we respond every time to the birds' stimulus.


On January 5, 2010 at 7:44 PM Rondeau Ric said...

That's not cold. I f you want cold come up here for a visit.
With the wind off the lake it's been around 0F and that really isn't cold.
Just ask Al Batt.

On January 5, 2010 at 9:09 PM Paul said...


Love the blog, keep up the good work! I was trying to find contact details but couldn't so I posted.

We have just finished a new site for use by the birding community:
We are contacting a limited number of people that we hope will let us know what they think about it before we take it out of beta. If you could let me know what you think that would be great.


On January 5, 2010 at 10:34 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

That is one boxed-up lil' junco! Nice shot, botb. A wonderful illustration of how fluffing can change a bird's apparent shape.

On January 6, 2010 at 9:39 AM babs said...

Mr. Thompson, if I credit you and Bird Watchers Digest, would it be alright to use a photo you took last year of a cold titmouse for an article in the non profit college magazine I edit for St. Mary's College of Maryland? It would go with a story about how animals get through winter.

On January 6, 2010 at 12:37 PM Susan said...

That is one puffy little junco! very cute...as for cold and snow, it's -13C right now, and we have about 2 ft. of snow on the ground...making snowshoes necessary if you want to go in the woods...ah, winter!

On January 7, 2010 at 9:45 AM Matthew said...

Hi Bill,

I would like to inform you of an upcoming anti illegal hunting campaign taking place in Malta in April. I hope that you can pass on this information and inform your readers of this event to help stop the poaching continuing on Malta. Details of the event are shown below.

BirdLife Malta – Spring Watch
11th – 30th April 2010

Spring is almost upon us, and once again birds returning to breed in Europe passing over Malta will risk persecution from illegal hunters and trappers.

BirdLife Malta will this year be running the first ever 3 week long Spring Watch Camp. The camp will monitor bird migration, maintain a strong presence in the countryside to deter the illegal killing and trapping of wild birds, and report illegalities to the police.

The European Court of Justice this year ruled that Malta breached the Birds Directive by opening a spring hunting season from 2004 to 2007. However the Maltese government, succumbing to pressure from the hunting lobby, has declared that it is considering derogating on the Birds Directive to continue allowing spring hunting.
If the government opens a spring hunting season, this year’s Spring Watch camp will be vital in documenting and revealing the extent and impact of hunting in spring.

Find out how you can help - please click here or contact springwatch@birdlifemalta.org

If you know of anyone else who may be interested in helping to fight this worthy cause please feel free to forward these details to them.

Kind regards,

Niki Rust

On January 7, 2010 at 12:37 PM MaineBirder said...

Beautiful photo of the fluffed up Junco!

On January 7, 2010 at 1:32 PM barbara j said...

Yike. Mr. Thompson, I am "babs" who is asking permission to use a 2009 photo with your credit and link info, but I did not give you contact info: bjgeehan@smcm.edu. Thanks!

On January 9, 2010 at 8:36 AM ajehly said...

I love the junco guilt trip. I have one that does the same to me. He sits on the deck and looks straight in the window at me. I'm sure it's just an accident, but your post made me suspect there is an ulterior motive. :)

On January 13, 2010 at 3:37 PM Andrea said...

I loved the blog. You've posted nice pics. They are awesome. Keep up the good work.