First snow

A couple of days ago, we had our first snow of the season. The precipitation started as an icy mix, but quickly changed over to snow. Activity at the bird feeders had been high all morning so I knew the storm was coming. Birds have a special middle-ear receptor called the Vitali organ, which can sense even small changes in barometric pressure. By the time snow began falling, dozens of birds had converged on the feeders.

Dozens of birds
female cardinal

A Yellow-bellied sapsucker, a bird I saw quite a bit last year, but not so far this year, showed up at the suet feeder – I guess his natural food sources had been adequate until now, but the snowstorm had pushed him to come to the feeder.
Yellow-bellied sapsucker

The feeding continued heavily throughout the day as multitudes of birds jockeyed for position at the feeders or waited below to gobble up whatever fell to the ground. It was fascinating to watch the pecking order in action as bigger birds dominated smaller birds, males dominated females, and females dominated younger birds.

Still, it was clear that two Northern blue jays were at the top of the pecking order, at least for the time being. They chased off other birds and grabbed chunks of suet and sunflower seeds, eating them on a nearby branch or flying off to cache them.
Northern blue jay

Cardinals are often the last birds I hear at dusk after the other birds have gone up to roost, their lonely chip calls piercing the quiet of the evening. By now, the other birds were gone, but this solitary male stayed until darkness forced him to leave.
Northern cardinal

Moments later, all the birds were gone. Not a sound could be heard and the only movement was the softly falling snow.

Each moment of the year has its own beauty, a picture which was never before and shall never be seen again.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

23 thoughts on “First snow

  1. Beautiful photos, Jo Ann. Cardinals are always show-stoppers against a snowy backdrop, but I love the little troop of dark-eyed juncos you captured.

    • Thank you, Christine. Cardinals are the State Bird of Virginia (as well as several other states) and one of my favorites, but I also love the little juncos, and the goldfinches, and the chickadees, and….

  2. Our trees looked just like that on Thursday morning, but I had an appointment and did not have a chance to capture them. Booooo.

  3. We get so little snow here in Virginia that I was determined to get out there and get some pictures. Lucky I did, because the next day the temps hit almost 50 and most of the snow melted! But it was beautiful while it lasted.

  4. Thank you for dropping by my blog it gave me the opportunity to visit yours and I am very impressed. Sounds like we have a lot in common. The photos are really good.

    • Thanks. This is really my first year blogging and taking photographs. Although I would like to get a better zoom lens for my camera, I’m pretty satisfied with the shots I’m getting. I enjoyed the photos on your blog.

      • I don’t think a person could ever be completely satisfied with the zoom they have because there will always be that great photo that is just out of reach.

  5. I had wondered why the birds knew to flock to the feeders right before bad weather – today we have a sunny day and they are aloof – makes sense now. Great shots!

    • Actually, many animals have an internal barometer that enables them to detect short-term changes in the weather, not just birds. Glad you enjoyed the pics.

  6. Here I sit in the tundra and seeing your stunning pictures of snow and the birds. Kiana and I walked last night when it was -5°.
    Temp got up to 5 above this afternoon and only cardinals at the feeder. Thanks for the showing the beautiful side of winter to someone living on the cold side.

  7. Man, I don’t know how you stand it! We took the dogs for a walk this morning and it was beautiful, just muddy with the snow pretty much all melted. I see buds forming on the trees. Starting next month, we’ll really start seeing signs of spring – crocuses by the end of February.

  8. Hi Jo Ann, Something I’ve always wondered… Do you know happen to know how much difference there is in size between the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker vs the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers? I know it’s pretty hard to tell the little guys apart, unless you actually see them both together (and although I’ve heard them many times, I’ve only actually spotted a Sapsucker very briefly, once.
    Blue Jays (the bullies) were always quite common around here, but these days, not as much. Love your Cardinal photos – particularly the female – she shows so well against the snowy backdrop: )

    • Check out “All About Birds” on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. I know that Downies are smaller than the Hairy Woodpeckers but otherwise look very similar. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has red under his beak and I believe is larger than the other two woodpeckers.

  9. Hi, Jo Ann: What GORGEOUS pictures! Couldn’t help wondering if Bill enjoyed the snow (Mother Nature’s Winter Treat!) Our ground is still covered by snow from the last storm and more expected this week! Yeah! Much love, Margie

    • We went for a walk the day after the snow and both of us really enjoyed it – mostly because of how much fun it was for the dogs! We didn’t go for a long walk, just a loop around the farm. So far, we’ve had more snow from this one storm that we got all last year! Hugs, Jo Ann

  10. Great pictures, Jo Ann and a lovely read. We’re sitting in a deep freeze right now (-25 – -45C with the windchill), so your images seem positively warm 🙂 Great description of the inter-species ‘pecking order’ around your feeders. It’s always fascinating to watch how they all sort themselves out. Enjoy the snow!

    • Whoa, now that’s cold! I enjoy the snow, but will be very glad for spring to arrive. I love how the grounds warms and “opens up,” making way for the greenery and flowers. But, in the meantime, I’ll definitely be enjoying the bird activity.

    • We are enjoying the snow because we didn’t get but a dusting or two last year. I’m also seeing a lot more activity at the feeders – the goldfinches have finally started showing up, I guess because it’s gotten a lot colder the last few days.

  11. Beautiful scenery and photographs of very colourful garden visitors. I adore Blue Jays, I’m lucky to see them where I am in the UK, but the Cardinal is just something else – stunning!

  12. Yes, the cardinals are stunning. They’re the State Bird of Virginia. Even though her coloring is more subtle, I think the female is beautiful.

    • Sometimes on a cold late afternoon when the sun is setting, the cardinals are still foraging. I feel sorry for them but guess that gets them through the night!

      On Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 4:20 PM, Wood and Field

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