It's 4:15pm on an early January day. It looks light enough for the birds to be still at the birdfeeders, but it is eerily still. No predators in sight, I recognize that the birds have called it a day.
Last night was bitter cold and windy, with windchills well below zero. The birds were busy at the feeders all day long, taking advantage of the bountiful buffet of high energy foods that is my yard.
I offer plenty of suet and nuts, both high in calories. My sunflower mix has no shells to it - why have the birds waste precious calories breaking open seeds?
My two heated birdbaths provide, I imagine, the only source of open water on a day that never got warmer than 5 degrees above zero. Chickadees and jays took advantage of the baths throughout the day.
But as the sun departs, stealing away any warmth it provides, the birds head off to their overnight roosts. Some, like downies and chickadees, might enter a tree cavity or birdhouse, finding it a great place to tuck into to spend the next 15 frigid hours. The jays and doves might find a branch deep in the safety of a pine tree, where they'll fluff up and hunker down for the night. Juncos and tree sparrows may find a place in a snow-covered brush pile, or on the ground under the snow-laden boughs of a pine tree.
They all have their way of finding shelter from the cold. But I worry about them. That's why I try to provide everything I can that might make their lives just a little bit easier during the bitter winters of the northeast.