By Bruce Stambaugh
It was a good day to stay inside. Though the partly cloudy sky revealed a gorgeous sunrise, the thermometer read six below zero, the coldest temperature of the season so far in Ohio’s Amish Country. That alone told me this day would be best enjoyed from the inside out.
Given the fact that I was in the midst of a battle with the annual wintertime crud, I wasn’t about to argue with that logic. The frigid air would do me no good.
Having spent five long hours in the local emergency room the previous morning, I knew I needed to take it easy. Stuck inside, I resigned myself to two main activities. I checked the birdfeeders for visitors and I rested.
Compared to previous winters, it had been a disappointing season at the birdfeeders. I had kept them well stocked and cleaned of any old feed, mold or other potentially noxious particles that would harm or discourage the birds.
Despite my efforts, the usual nice variety and numbers of birds had failed to materialize. Before the snow flew, I had a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches. But they must have been passing through because they haven’t been back.
Just before the holidays, Pine Siskins chased the American Goldfinches away from the feeder that contained sunflower chips. The siskins never came back either. After one of the series of Alberta Clippers came through, I had a Rusty Blackbird for a couple of days.
The usual birds, other than the pesky House Sparrows, seemed fewer in number. A pair of Cardinals made infrequent appearances. The Dark-eyed Juncos, a given at winter feeders, were scarce. A few White-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees came and went irregularly.
A pair of bully Blue Jays could be counted to show up from time to time. A Downy Woodpecker pretty much had the suet feeder all to himself. The Red-bellied Woodpecker that had been a regular seemed to have disappeared since the snowfall.
The goldfinches and the congregation of house sparrows were the only feeder faithfuls. My winter’s entertainment wasn’t as entertaining as I would have liked.
As the temperature of this frigid day climbed into positive single digits, the bird feeders suddenly came alive. Colors flashed in the bright morning sunshine, and I grabbed my camera.
I spent a majority of the morning snapping one shot after the other. Tree sparrows picked at the corn my wife had put out since I was on the disabled list. The secretive song sparrow found a spot in the sun where it could simultaneously feed and warm itself.
The show really picked up at the shelled peanut feeder, which was a section of hollowed out log hanging from a hook on the back porch. The red-bellied returned, and brought along a hairy woodpecker as a sidekick. Tufted titmice and even chickadees grabbed some protein.
A family of eastern bluebirds stole the show, however. They tried out every feeder. Males and females alike ate peanuts, chipped sunflower
seeds, black oil sunflower seeds and even pecked at the peanut butter-laden suet.
Despite the cold, both in the air and in my body, I had hit the trifecta. I enjoyed the extreme winter weather without having to bundle up, was treated to some wonderful birding, and captured much of it through the lens of my camera. I was beginning to feel better already.