Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Very early snowfall

In Sunday's entry, I casually ended the piece with a line about Connecticut seeing its first snowfall on Monday, knowing there was a chance for some parts of the state to see some flakes overnight and early Monday morning. Full disclosure here: I love snow! Always have, always will. However, I can be objective about it, and I knew the chances were good for some very early winter weather despite the fact very few forecasters or media outlets had even mentioned the word. I do not have to worry about my reputation since I am not a meteorologist or professional forecaster. I can glance over the weather models and interpret things as best I can then pass it along (though the interpretation is sometimes not so great).

Parts of eastern Connecticut ended up with 1-2 inches of snow. Nearly all of the state had some form of frozen precipitation. Even here in Stratford, we had a deluge of sleet that last for several hours, at least 5-9AM. The wind hammered it into the windows hard enough to wake me up repeatedly before sunrise. Combined with a bit of snow we had an accumulation of 1/2 to 3/4 inches. This is very rare for coastal Connecticut in early November. Various municipalities and much of the general public was caught totally off guard, with major traffic delays, accidents, school delays and closures - it was a mess. I still do not know how some of the professionals missed the ball on this one.

A strange early November sight

I nearly made an entry yesterday about the bird behavior I was observing on Sunday. Another disclaimer: this sort of discussion can get arbitrary, unscientific, and silly. Nevertheless, I paused a couple of times Sunday afternoon to note how the birds were devouring food at an incredible rate. They seemed to know we had poor weather brewing. Now, for example, our backyard birds cannot detect something like a hurricane coming in a week that is currently 2,000 miles away. However, picking up the signs that a storm was backing in was obvious even to me, with the winds picking up, skies darkening a bit more, and pressure dropping rapidly.

I had filled the feeders earlier in the day, and they were all nearly emptied entirely. That happens very rarely. It is an easy way to measure consumption, though the sheer number of birds fighting over it was obvious as well. Finally, I noted a few visitors who had
not previously stopped by this fall season. A Northern Flicker came to eat suet and check over things. A Chipping Sparrow stopped over to eat some mixed seed. My local Carolina Wren dropped by for suet as well. Curiously, despite good migration weather the previous two nights, I still had that Fox Sparrow scratching away.

The Fox Sparrow scratching in the sleet and snow Monday morning

I am not postulating that they have an absolute understanding of what is about to occur; rather, they know what weather is conducive to migrate in, when to remain where they are, when conditions will be tough for them, etc. It seemed like they had an idea that it would be a difficult morning the next day. I had warned people to look for oddities at their feeders, especially if we had actual snow accumulation at this early date. Unexpected birds show up when the ground is suddenly frozen and they are not ready for it. Here is what I saw only at the feeders when I was home today:

  • 19 Wild Turkey
  • 32 Mourning Dove
  • 2 Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • 2 Downy Woodpecker
  • 1 Hairy Woodpecker
  • 2 Northern Flicker
  • 7 Blue Jay
  • 5 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 6 Tufted Titmouse
  • 2 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 1 Carolina Wren
  • 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
  • 1 Eastern Towhee
  • 1 Chipping Sparrow
  • 1 Fox Sparrow
  • 1 Song Sparrow
  • 26 White-throated Sparrow
  • 78 Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
  • 3 Northern Cardinal
  • 6 Red-winged Blackbird
  • 3 Common Grackle
  • 3 Purple Finch
  • 22 American Goldfinch
  • 8 House Sparrow

Apart from all my returning visitors and residents, I added a Song Sparrow, an Eastern Towhee, and even a Yellow-rumped Warbler who came by to eat some suet. Two White-tailed Deer stopped to inspect things just before sunset, too. It looked and felt like a mid-December day in every regard. Always remember to have your feeders full before a big snowstorm. Apart from helping the birds immensely, it will pay off with a nice rarity sometime. I am already excitedly awaiting the annual visit of Rusty Blackbirds to my feeders after a sizable snowfall.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

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