November 21, 2022
“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.” Anonymous
I love this quote– and the snow!
It’s hard not to feel a certain child-like wonder when the first big flakes of snow fall from the sky and transform our world into a winter wonderland. I love sitting by the fire with a hot cup of tea in my hands watching the snow pile up outside our window and marveling at the little songbirds as they fluff up their feathers to ward off the cold. I’d like to invite them in for a while to warm up. Instead, I put on three layers of pants, three shirts, a balaclava, a fuzzy hat, a down coat, a neck warmer, mittens, and boots, and join them, camera in hand.
For the last several days, the snow has been falling almost non-stop! The birds don’t seem to mind, though, and are flitting about everywhere, enjoying the easy source of food in our feeders and occasionally taking sips of warm water from the birdbath. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of them hoping to find among the mix, one of the ‘vagrants’ –birds who are part of a phenomenon known as an ‘irruption’ which is currently taking place across eastern North America.
An irruption is a sudden change in the population density of an organism. In the lives of our feathered friends, an irruption occurs when the birds who live farther north run out of food, and move farther south to find sustenance. Some of the irruptive species here in Michigan include purple finches, redpolls, evening grosbeaks, red-breasted nuthatches, pine grosbeaks, pine siskins, and bohemian waxwings.
These irruptions commonly occur every few years and mostly impact the finches and other species that winter in the boreal forests of Canada and further north. The primary food source for these birds comes from pine cones. When the pine cone crop is poor over the summer, it foreshadows a difficult winter for these birds. The shortage of seeds that the pine cones produce forces these birds to move beyond their normal range in search of food. If multiple types of trees fail to produce a seed crop during the same year, multiple species of birds will move further south.
Irruptions vary widely in size, frequency, and duration. Some birds will stay in an area for weeks at a time, while others might only stay for a day. Regardless of the size of the flock or the duration of their visit, it’s an exciting time for birders!
I would love to see any one of these wayward birds on my picture walks, but I have been happy enough with my usual backyard visitors, as well as the interesting mix of migrating birds that visit Kalamazoo this time of year, like the fox sparrows, the white throated sparrows, the American wigeons and, the very peculiar, Wilson’s snipe.
I’ve been out in the snow several times recently looking for the evening grosbeaks, the red-breasted nuthatches, and the other ‘irrupters’ who might be passing through, but I have come up empty handed. On any given picture walk, though, there is always the possibility that something new might come along, and ‘possibility‘ is always a great motivator!
On these beautiful, winter days, I love the challenge of bundling up like a kid to stay warm and trudging through freshly fallen snow to photograph a bird, as I revel in the joy that, at age 75, I can still do this!
Find the joy!
6 thoughts on “Find the Joy”
I have been wondering how much snow you got. All we got is cold. So cold we decided to go to Tucson for a week after Thanksgiving. Stephanie and Stephen decided to go to Hawaii and good for them! Great shots as always, I find it amazing that more birds don’t migrate south, they are a lot tougher than they look!
And the birds manage to stay warm with only a few feathers while I have on layers and layers of warm clothes! Enjoy Tucson and Happy Thanksgiving!
What a wonderful post on your delightful picture walks! I love your combination of beautiful photos and information about them. We love watching so many birds at our bird feeder. I always wonder though, where do the birds go at night?
Thanks, Lynn! I think the birds bunker down in the trees at night. I had a young blind student ask me once if the birds wrote pajamas at night. 😊
Enjoyed the article (so true) AND the wonderful pictures!!!
Thanks, Jane! Glad you’re following along. 😊