Outdoors photo 2

One of the first of our backyard bird feeders to be visited was the one that holds suet.

Photo by Charlie Burchfield

Starting the day with snow and a touch of sleet mixed in and carried with a northwest wind, tends to quickly gain one’s attention. It is a situation looked upon by some as a hardship that will frame the day. Yet for others the blanket of white provides renewed opportunity.

A consistent snow that provides a blanket of white across the region has been spotty and short lived at best.

A tracking snow, as some call it, was for the most part nonexistent. Yes, on several occasions snow fell, but its presence was quick to disappear. Even during deer season hunters asked, “Where’s the snow?” while others looked upon the situation as being OK.

As in the past, at our house we maintain feeding stations for the birds. Our offering is not fancy. Black oil sunflower seeds, Niger, and pure beef suet is what we offer. These attract a wide variety of birds.

Generally our feeders are filled come mid to late October. However conditions have been a bit different compared to previous years. Mild weather and an abundance of natural food influenced our decision to refrain from filling our feeders until the end of the first full week in November.

After the feeders were filled, then the fun began. The view of our feeding stations is often up close and personal. From the feeders to a pair of sliding glass doors it is a span of 12 feet or so. We simply back away from the glass and watch and wait.

Sure enough it didn’t take long. Within 15 minutes the first bird appeared.

Several Finches and Nuthatches were the first to arrive. The suet feeder drew in a number of Downey and Hairy Woodpeckers along with a Red-bellied Woodpecker and even a Carolina Wren. We also witnessed a “flyby” of a Pileated Woodpecker that frequents the area.

Over the course of the next several days there was not an overwhelming influx of birds. Their visits remain consistent and their frequency remains light, which is not troubling.

From when the feeders were filled to date, weather conditions have been mild. Add to the equation the abundance of natural, easy-to-find food sources, and it seems the birds are foraging naturally. And that’s the way it should be.

Weather conditions have been attributed to the increase of birds coming to the feeders. The birds tend to visit our feeders when cold snaps occurred. Increased feeding has taken place prior to and following recent snowfalls. Also when temperatures took a plunge, the birds took full advantage of what we have to offer.

As the last days of fall linger and winter begins to set in, weather conditions will change. And when it does, our backyard birdfeeders are filled and ready to go.


Audubon’s 118th Christmas Bird Count will be conducted from Dec. 14, 2017, through Jan. 5, 2018.

Since the Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago, it has relied on the dedication and commitment of volunteers.

To participate in this year‘s count contact www.audubon.org/content/join-christmas-bird-count. From there view the Christmas Bird count map and view the circles on the map where counts will be conducted. The geographic area of a particular count area can be found along with contact information of the contact person heading up the count.


If you enjoy watching birds at your feeders, consider joining forces with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Project FeederWatch. This is the 24th season for this program which began on Nov. 13 and continues until April 8.

More than 15,000 participants count birds at their feeders as often as once per week and send their observations to scientists at the Cornell Lab.

These reports help our scientists better understand population trends and movements of our favorite backyard birds.

Join at any time by logging on to www.feederwatch.org or by calling 800-843-2473.

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Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, an active member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, Outdoor Writers Assoc. of America and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is GWOutdoors@comcast.net

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