Our Irene-related rain started on Saturday evening around 9pm as I was bringing in all our plants and lawn furniture in advance of the coming storm. At that time, the forecast promised that this was just the start of perhaps 24 hours straight of rain.
I left the birdfeeders out since the stronger winds were not forecasted to arrive until Sunday. I wanted to leave them out as long as possible to make an easy food source available to the birds before (and as long into) the storm as possible. We were expecting sustained winds of 30-40mph and wind gusts to 50-60mph. We had advised our Wild Birds Unlimited customers to take down larger feeders and hanging feeders, using good judgment to reduce the risk of injury, damage, or loss.
When I awoke Sunday at 7:30a, our power was already out. The rain was steady but not torrential, and the winds were steady with frequent strong bursts. A few birds were out and feeding; Black-capped Chickadees, Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were the first birds I saw. Here's a short video of one of my morning chickadees hanging on during the storm.
The winds weren't awful so instead of taking the feeders down, I filled several of them, especially those providing high energy sources like Bark Butter and lots of Choice Blend with peanuts and black oil in the hopper feeders. I also spread some seed underneath the dense shrubs and low-hanging conifer tree branches for birds that might be seeking shelter there. I even put out an extra feeder filled with a seed stackable and suet dough stackable right next to the shelter of a tree trunk.
Occasionally, a Blue Jay would come out to the feeders too. But in the rain and wind, they weren't feeding in typical jay fashion, i.e., sitting on a feeder and filling their crop with food. They were feeding more like chickadees - taking a peanut and quickly flying off for the shelter of a tree.
By 10:00am, the leaf debris on the deck attested to the fact that the winds were getting stronger. The gusts were too, especially gusts out of the northwest. The winds were shifting a lot though, and the steadiest winds were coming out of the east-northeast as predicted.
Without the benefit of electricity, TV, or Internet, I didn't know how the storm was progressing but it certainly seemed to be picking up in intensity. I kept a close eye on the feeders to make sure they were still doing fine in the wind.
Around 11:00am, a group of Hairy Woodpeckers started feeding more frequently. There were 4 of them visiting mostly the Bark Butter and the Nutty for Nuts cylinder, where the dome of the Dinner Bell feeder provided some protection while they fed.
Hummingbird activity would ebb and flow. I left four hummingbird feeders out - 2 hanging and 2 suction-cupped to windows. I saw 4 hummingbirds at any one time, which means there were many more around throughout the day.
We anticipated going in to Saratoga to open the store, and to have some electricity to work with, recharge my phone, check the weather forecast, and get some hot coffee and warm food. But within the first couple miles after leaving home, Lois went around 2 downed trees and numerous downed branches, drove under on wire with a tree on it, saw 2 cars off the road, and drove across one small stream flowing over the road. So much for getting into Saratoga!
American Goldfinches weathered the storm too, looking pretty soaked. Their little ones are no more than 2 weeks out of the nest here, so I hoped the young were doing okay. Maybe mom & dad, who only a day or two ago were refusing to feed them, would indulge them with a little regurgitated food.
As the day wore on, the winds did not seem to increase significantly, but the rain was steady. I spied a couple birds who had found their own favorite perch to try to stay dry. A female hairy found a spot under a branch on the side of a hemlock that was to her liking and spent a good deal of time there during the afternoon hours. And this chickadee tried to stay as dry as possible on a pole beneath a feeder.
By 3:00pm, the wind and rain were slowing down, though the tops of the pines were still in constant movement. This was just the break a few doves needed to venture out to the yard. The skies seemed to lighten around 4:00pm, and I hoped the slight calming would give the birds at least a couple hours to get out and eat up before settling in for the night.
They'd need the extra energy; I was sure their energy intake was less than on a normal day. Every bird out there was wet and it was still raining, albeit more lightly. It was only 63 degrees out, and I was sure temperatures would dip into the 50s overnight. I was glad to provide an easy-to-find source of food in the waning daylight hours of this wild day.
The birds did seem to get a little more active at the feeders, even though the winds picked up again around 5:00pm. The gusts looked to be as strong as they had been in the early afternoon. I thought this thing was winding down! Although a light rain persisted, some of the birds looked they were getting the opportunity to dry off.
It was an interesting day to say the least. Birds remained active throughout the worst of the wind and the rain, and I was amazed at how these creatures, many weighing less than 1 ounce, took on a hurricane named Irene.