My wife noticed I was very quiet and had been in the bathroom for quite some time. As she walked past the door, she heard me faintly but rapidly counting, “Seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven …” Our conversation continued as she spoke to me through the closed door:
“What are you doing? Are you all right?”
“I think I’m about to set a new record.”
“What kind of a record are you setting in the bathroom? Are you sure you are okay?”
I cut my reply off in mid-syllable and came away sounding a lot like the movie character Rain Man when I hurriedly said, “I’m counting cards … counting cards … eleven, twelve, thirteen …”
“You’re counting what?”
“I’m counting cardinals … thirteen, fourteen, fourteen … YAHOO, there’s fifteen!”
I should explain. Our bathroom window gives the best view of the bird feeder and my eyes were glued to the glass pane, anticipating a personal best.
Sure enough, our old record of 14 male cardinals and accompanying females at the feeder had just been beaten by the simultaneous attendance of 15 pairs. The sight of the gorgeous bright red of the male birds splashed against a backdrop of snow-covered ground and tree branches was awesome.
Talk about your “Audubon moment.”
This winter has been particularly hard on birds. Last summer’s drought left little weed seed going into fall and the snow cover and bitter temperatures were taking their toll. Every day, I put two gallons of sunflower seeds and a suet cake in the feeding station. Many days I come home in the evening to find it completely empty.
After filling the sunflower feeder and snapping a new suet cake in the holder, the birds often feed right up until dark.
The lack of forage and their hunger, along with my daily appearance at the feeding station, made the birds far less fearful of me. It isn’t unusual for young nuthatches or young woodpeckers to light on the feeder while I fill it. The older birds still hold their distance, but even they have begun to gather in the surrounding trees when I come to fill the empty feeder.
Squirrels come by and forage for sunflower seeds, and even the huge pileated woodpecker I named Woody drops in several times throughout the day to hammer away at the suet cake.
The birds have been coming by the hundreds. The cardinals and their mates show up mainly in the evening, but at any time it is not unusual to see 15 or more chickadees, 10 nuthatches, 10 or more dark-eyed Juncos, four or five downy woodpeckers, a half-dozen house finches, three or four blue jays and six or eight titmouses. (Or would the proper term be titmice?)
In the coming days, bird enthusiasts need to keep their feeders full. Even after the weather breaks, there will be little weed seed forage necessary to maintain many specie of birds. Many will most likely not survive until warm weather, when Nature’s bounty returns to start the nesting season.
The weatherman says there is a good chance of snow and another blanket of white, which will most likely bring another proliferation of cardinals to the feeder. Who knows – another record? Maybe this time, I can get my wife to help count.
3 men rescued after boat sinks
Indiana conservation officers responded to a 911 call from three men whose boat sank during a fishing trip on the Wabash River.
At approximately 7:40 p.m. on Feb. 6, the Vermillion County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call from three men who were stranded on the east bank of the Wabash River in Fountain County. They requested help saying their boat sank while bow fishing in the Wabash River.
Responding to the emergency call, officers launched a boat and were able to locate the trio. The men refused any medical treatment and were transported back to their vehicle. They are identified as Alan M. Phelps of Dana, Ind., Michael A. Miller of Hillsdale and Joseph A. High of Chrisman, Ill.
The men stated while trying to maneuver their boat around a submerged object, their portable generator struck an overhanging tree limb. As a result, High was thrown into the river and the boat began taking on water.
The boat completely submerged and they were able to swim to shore. Once on shore, they placed a call to the Vermillion County Sheriff’s dispatch. None of the three men were wearing lifejackets at the time of the incident.
Every year many Hoosiers enjoy winter recreational activities on water. But, every year, people drown or suffer from extreme hypothermia after falling into cold water.
Conservation Officer Deland Szczepanski says, “It is extremely important to not only bring along a lifejacket, but to also wear it, especially in moving water. The water temperature is still in the high 30s to low 40s and that makes self-rescue much more difficult. Lifejackets don’t work if you don’t wear them.”
Owl Prowl at Fairfax SRA
A guided hike during the peak of owl mating season at Monroe Lake offers a chance for participants to use their voices to call the birds. The Owl Prowl is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 6 p.m., at the Fairfax State Recreation Area, 9301 S. Fairfax Road, Bloomington.
Late winter is the peak of owl mating season, and the peak of owl calling season. “Owls are actively seeking mates right now,” Monroe Lake naturalist Jill Vance said. “This makes them more inclined to respond when we attempt to call them in close.”
The hike will meet in front of the Four Winds Resort. Before the hike, there will be a brief discussion of owl mating habits and instruction on imitating owl calls. Participants should dress warmly and bring a flashlight.
Registration is required by Feb. 22 by contacting the Paynetown Activity Center at 812-837-9967 or jvance@dnr.IN.gov
These views are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with comments for Jack Spaulding may contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org