Before my next Yellowstone blog (later today; I’m on a roll after a long posting absence), I wanted to share a tip with those of you concerned about birds when you’re confronted with frigid temperatures.
Here in the Southeastern USA, our late autumn/winter season has so far been a temperature roller coaster. We have gone from afternoon temperatures in the 50s and 60s F° (about 10-15 C°) to morning lows of 10 to 25 F° (-12 to -3 C°).
My porch features some shallow plastic plant saucers that I keep filled with water and a solar fountain. The smaller birds especially like to get drinks there because it is more sheltered than the bird baths out in the yard. However, that water has been frozen and birds began chipping at it fruitlessly to get a drink.
As a hiker, I often use hand, toe and body warmers when I walk in the cold. So it occurred to me that I might use them to provide the birds with some liquid refreshment in the cold. Wikipedia explains what they are: “Air-activated hand warmers contain cellulose, iron, activated carbon, vermiculite (which holds water) and salt and produce heat from the exothermic oxidation of iron when exposed to air.” The small packets are shaken to activate them and then they give off warmth for about 8-10 hours.
I taped some of the hand and body warmers to the bottom of plastic containers and ceramic dishes and it has worked really well. Even in freezing weather, the warmers keep the water in the containers liquid all day for birds like the tufted titmice below.
As you can see from the accompanying photos, a variety of birds have been using them and it’s been rewarding for both them and me! As I write this in front of my porch window, a yellow-rumped warbler stopped by for a drink.
The larger birds like the crows have not come onto the porch but I hope they have strong enough beaks to break through ice in the ponds and puddles.
The coming week, our temperature roller coaster will return. We’re now expecting to have temperatures in the next two weeks reaching about 65 F° (18 C)!!
As you’ll see in the next blog, when my friend and I visited Yellowstone in the spring, we also encountered temperature roller coasters. Some days we started off bundled up for winter and ended with our jackets off in the afternoon. I am immensely grateful that I’ve been able to cope with these climatic circumstances and will maintain my wood pile in case we lose electricity later this winter and I need to use the fireplace.