28 December 2017
Recently all of North America has been experiencing a monumental cold snap, the like of which has seldom been seen before. Overnight from 27 December to 28 December in the Region of Waterloo we broke a record which had stood for a hundred years when the mercury plunged to minus 24.2°C, and taking into account wind chill, minus 31°C.
Resident birds have to survive in these conditions at a time when we are barely past the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and they still have minimal hours in which to forage.
We feed birds primarily for the pleasure they bring us it must be said, but under these conditions our feathered friends really do need a helping hand.
As far as I can recall we have only seen Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) twice before in our backyard, and then only as a casual visitor. We had not previously witnessed it feeding.
Imagine our delight, therefore, when we looked out to see a female feeding on one of our suet feeders.
You can even see the feint smudge of a red belly from which this species gets its name.
This was not a casual visit to the feeder, the bird stayed there for quite a while and bolted down as much food as it could pry from the frozen block of suet.
Not only did it feed voraciously the first time around, about an hour later we observed it back at the feeder gorging again. We can only hope that this intake of fat will buffer the bird against the cold and help it to survive the long, dark, bitterly cold night.
Today we were occupied with the Linwood Christmas Bird Count so we were not at home to see whether the bird returned, but we hope it did, and we further hope that it will make our yard a regular stop, even when these dire conditions have ended.
Tomorrow, one or the other of us will be home most of the day, so we will keep a close eye on the feeders to see whether the bird returns to take advantage of the food we have on offer. Today I installed an additional suet feeder so perhaps it will bring a friend!