Last week we had a good area of snow-free ground and were getting excited about possibilities for the next few days despite some bone-breaking night temperatures, a distinctly colder than usual for the date -20C to start the week off … but now we have to say there is almost no gardening at all to speak of due to the huge snow dump we had Tuesday night that obliterated all the exposed ground. Three times the previous record of snow for the date and, of course, described by our local newspaper as “The Storm of the Century”. That is more than somewhat hyperbolic but it was certainly more than a regular dump of snow with 40cm of the stuff (previous record 12cm). The storm came up from the US – thanks guys – and started early morning Tuesday with strengthening winds. Before things got too heavy we went out in bitter wind but light snow to fill the bird feeders at the McGill (Bird) Banding Station nearby. No they don’t band birds in the winter but we keep the feeders filled to look after birds overwintering on the site. We were rewarded with a small flock of Bohemian Waxwings sheltering in some shrubby trees. Driving home the wind got up even more strongly and the snow increased in volume quite markedly with a greatly reduced visibility and swirling eddies of blowing snow around the garden and the neighbourhood.
Fortunately we pay a guy with a tractor to clear snow from the front of the house but some serious, old-fashioned hand shoveling was needed for us to get to the bird feeders and make the plentiful food inside them once again accessible to the flocks of small, scolding birds lurking in the trees and shrubs. Goodbye snowdrops – we hope to see you again before too long. We had even seen some early crocus shoots before this snowfall, but they are pretty tough and we can wait a few more days to enjoy their colour.
We wrote about the storm and shared some more images than the ones posted here on our other website at http://www.greenbirding.ca/what-a-dump/ if you would like to head over and have a look.
Blue Jay and Northern Cardinal male
After the storm many birds came to the cleaned out and restocked feeders and gorged themselves. We were especially pleased to have heard, and eventually seen, the Carolina Wrens singing somewhere in the shrubbery and then taking suet from the garden supplies – we had been worried that they wouldn’t make it but they seem to have done so. The loose, single-sex groups of Northern Cardinals that have been around for several weeks have finally resolved themselves into the “usual” two spring/summer pairs with one claiming territory on the right side of the garden and the other on the left. They squabble at the feeders and we think the group to the right are a bit more dominant than the left side guys but it’s not totally clear.
On the other hand, plant catalogues are starting to arrive in the mail as a reminder that it’s time to do some serious thinking about the weeks ahead. Not as many catalogues as were once the case – times change and we mostly shop online anyway – but a few to get the juices running. We could do without the one from Veseys though; a popular and successful company but one that we fell out with over some years ago after bad experiences with their customer service department.
Not having much else to tell readers about let us introduce you to the Garden at Fritz. This is a community garden scheme in our little town where I work with a few friends to grow vegetables that we distribute distribute free to local food banks and the meals-on-wheels people. Workers at food banks helping those living without “food security” tell us they can usually get plenty of packet and dried and canned foods but are always in need of fresh vegetables – usually their only source is to spend cash donations at the supermarkets!! Does your community have anything like the Garden at Fritz (https://gardenatfritz.com)? Why not get together with your neighbours and set one up – ours is on land donated by the town council in a corner of a park. It’s a lot of fun and we also get help from (some, not as many as we would like) local kids and teenagers who are thereby introduced to the “novel idea” that food doesn’t all come from the store and in fact is easy to grow at home.