Quite the week for snow as winter finally starts to show signs, albeit very slight signs, of heading towards the end of its run. Days are notably longer and the sun is higher in the sky each morning. All that and it’s been a good week for birds … there are photographs below:

Along with the deep and fluffy snow – perhaps the best this winter has produced – has come an increase in the number of Mourning Doves (commonly known to birders as “Dopes”) in and around the garden. During the day they hang around feeding and then as twilight arrives they congregate, as they do most winters, around the rim of a heated birdbath on the deck and exchange observations of the day just ending. Only three or four years ago we would get a dozen or more at the evening assembly while in the early years here we would expect 15-20 or more … the peak was 23 cooing to each other in December 2008.  We initially put the declining numbers down to the successful breeding and hunting of local Cooper’s Hawks and indeed that may have been contributory, but now we feel there are probably other factors at play for the usual number of “Dopes” to go from (say) 15 to just 2-3 in only a decade.

Here’s a chart showing the weekly fluctuation in maximum numbers of Mourning Doves seen in the garden for four representative years from the start of the millennium to this winter …

We have an (indoor – strictly indoor) cat by name of Buster who sits staring at the MODO gatherings while chittering away at them in frustration … well, we attribute it to frustration but he’s a very vocal cat and he could be telling them stories. It’s not just in the garden either. We could always count on seeing really large numbers of MODOs congregating on power wires near a farm along “our” Christmas Bird Count route but they, too, have declined dramatically in number recently – especially in the past three years. This recent CBC saw none at all in the traditional spot yet quite a large bunch in a cedar tree a few kilometres away not far from a feeder in a garden. Again, in the Morgan Arboretum some ten minutes from our garden we rarely saw MODOs while recently they have started hanging around the forest edges. It’s hard to know what has changed in their environment, but something has.

The really deep snowfall early in the week and the subsequent sunshine and chilly winds have brought larger than usual groups of American Goldfinches, a small gang of Blue Jays and a couple of House Finches that we hadn’t seen hereabouts for over a week.

A friend in England sent us photographs of snowdrops in her garden. We know we have them too but it will still be almost a month before there is any chance of them peeking out from the snow. When they appear we will really know winter is ending.

Finallyphotos from the week – hover over a thumbnail for the caption to appear and click any one to open a gallery at full size