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Welcome Back, Grackles and Red-Wings

A lively cloud of grackles and red-winged blackbirds lifted my spirits as they picnicked at the bird feeders today. If you look closely, you’ll find that the red squirrel joined right in the mix.

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February in New England

Seventy-two degrees with a nice breeze: A perfect day to hang the chime out, sit back and enjoy nature.

How can snow and sleet possibly be forecast for tomorrow?

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Icebreakers

These ducks and a swan at Mount Holyoke College seemed equally at home on ice or in the rushing water.

After resting close to the edge of the stream, they paddled into the racing current, which tossed them downstream. Next, they climbed up on large pieces of ice to enjoy a bit of sun together before beginning another challenging swim.

I worried about the swan. Did it have only one leg? Probably not. Swans and other large birds may stand on a single leg in order to conserve body heat in cold climates.

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Is Spring Just Around the Corner?

These robins were part of a large flock passing overhead on this warm but dreary day. Were they the harbingers of Spring? It is more likely that they have stayed in the area all Winter.

The Audubon explains that:

“Robins have been known to overwinter in Massachusetts since at least the early 1900s. The number of wintering robins depends largely on the severity of the weather and the abundance of food.

Most birds that regularly winter in New England are well suited to withstand cold temperatures. In the fall, many birds grow additional feathers for insulation. To keep warm while roosting, birds fluff their feathers. Because of the way their feathers are layered, this behavior traps pockets of warm air next to the skin.

During winter days, many birds feed almost continually, storing up fat that they burn off at night to keep warm. There isn’t much one can feed robins in the winter. They’re very adept at finding their preferred food and rarely visit feeding stations. ”

No matter what, I look forward to the day when these perky birds arrive to enjoy my garden for the Summer.

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European Starlings

This flock of European Starlings only paused in the field long enough to grab a quick snack before swirling up to nearby power lines to perch together. When I see starlings, I think “Australian” instead of “European”. These speckled creatures remind me of Aboriginal bird paintings where dots form the pictures against dark backgrounds.

Would you ever think of “Shakespeare” and “starlings” together? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology explains that:

“All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds set loose in New York’s Central Park in the early 1890s. The birds were intentionally released by a group who wanted America to have all the birds that Shakespeare ever mentioned. It took several tries, but eventually the population took off. Today, more than 200 million European Starlings range from Alaska to Mexico, and many people consider them pests. “

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