Blizzard Birding March 10, 2008
Saturday's snow played havoc with the birds. Filling my feeders to the brim before heading out to Kingwood, I knew it would be critical to provide food for the local birds. Especially worrisome was the fact many early migrants started to appear with the warm weather last week. The earliest male Red-wing Blackbirds were staking out their place in the local cat-tails. Bluebirds too, are susceptible to harsh winter storms. Primarily insect-eaters, they must turn to seed, suet and the meal worms offered by true Bluebird fanatics.
Birders all over Ohio reported sightings of Red-wing Blackbirds, Rusty Blackbirds, and the occasional Fox Sparrow coming in for relief from the storm. But for the few, the lucky, sheer desperation brought some of Ohio's hardiest to their rural feeding stations.
"Pudsandquackers" a birder from La Rue, Ohio was kind enough to allow me share this photo with you. The Holy Grail of the winter bird-feeders, Snow Buntings, Plectrophenax nivalis are visitors from the far North. Accustomed to cold, blow and snow, these summer residents of the upper-most reaches of North America, consider Ohio farm lands a balmy place for a winter vacation. They can be found scratching out a living with Horned Larks, but one must look and listen closely for their movement in fields where they glean the seed left behind by combine or corn picker.
White flashes accompany the wing-beats of these winter plumage birds, often identified by their non-breeding field mark: a chestnut-colored collar. Ohioans rarely see the stark black and white contrast of their March-August breeding plumage.
I may have reckless disregard for weathermen and their predicted forecasts, but seeing a Horned Lark or Snow Bunting at my feeder would have made me a blizzard-believer! Only excessive snow and the wickedest of winter conditions could drive these birds from their fields. This picture tells the true story, Saturday was this decade's biggest blow.