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Birds of Kentucky: Feathered weather forecasters beat newscasts

At Tucker's Station, the household usually depends on Wayne - but before the last snow storm, the birds' feeding frenzy on January 6, 2011 offered better forecast. Wayne flipped through Tv weather channels, which predicted no snow. Barbara observed the birds. Even with the grand Tucker's Station Bird Buffet, with 16 feeders and several ACGC suet balls, fights were breaking out amongst the guests. And a new Tucker's Station world record - 12 Goldfinches on one Nyjer sock - told our heroine something was coming down. January 7, a snow day to be remembered. Birds not only entertain us. They have something important to say as well.
A getting ready for the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 18-21, 2011, story

By Barbara Armitage

For me the difference between being old and getting old is learning something new every day. This past couple of weeks I learned something new by going "old school".

Up here on the hill at Tucker's Station we generally defer to Wayne when it comes to weather forecasts. He never misses a news broadcast and in fact the only time I have ever seen him work up the nerve to tell me to hush is when the weather forecast is on.

At the first sign of bad weather moving into the area it's not unusual to find him flipping between several local and national television channels while listening to his favorite radio station's weather report and let's not forget the fact that he's streaming weather information on at least one of several computers in the house. If there's a cloud in the sky Wayne's got radar on it.

So on the morning of January 6th when I noticed an unusual number of birds at our feeders I began to wonder. Even with 16 feeders plus several of the ACGC Gourmet Suet Balls in the yard we couldn't handle the increase of birds. Fights were breaking out and several times I counted as many as 12 Goldfinches on one Nyjer sock - a new record for us.

On an average day birds feed in the early morning and then again in the afternoon. On that particular Thursday the feeding started as soon as the sun came up and continued nonstop until dark. Why?

The official "Wayne weather" report at 10:30 Thursday night was for no snow. So what were the birds trying to tell me?

A web search of weather folk lore was my answer. Birds are sensitive to changes in air pressure and a decrease in air pressure precedes a low pressure area.

Decreasing air pressure indicates the approach of a low pressure area, which often brings clouds and precipitation. Increasing air pressure often means that a high pressure area is approaching, bringing a fine and clear day.

In a text book storm the snow falls heaviest where the low pressure area (a cold front) collides with a high pressure area (a warm front) which is what happened late that Thursday night and most of the day on Friday.

When we woke up on Friday morning we had 4 inches of snow that the weather forecast said we wouldn't get.

Score: Birds 1 - Weather Channel zip.

What did I learn? When it appears that every bird in the county is at your feeders a change in the weather may be headed our way. If the birds plant themselves at your "all you can eat buffet" and refuse to leave then you can bet that we're in for nasty weather.

Which brings us back to Thursday's eating frenzy.

The birds seem to instinctively know that that despite what the weather forecasters were telling us we were in for several inches of snow. It's more difficult for the birds to find seeds when they are covered with snow.

We all need to spend more time in Nature's Classroom.

If you'd like to learn more about feeding and identifying the birds attend one of the ACGC's Birding 101 classes. Three classes are being offered this year for your convenience. Birding 101 classes will be held at the Adair County Extension Office, 409 Fairground Street (MAP), Columbia, KY:
  • Saturday January 29, 2011, at 10amCT
  • Saturday February 5, 2011, 10amCT
  • Friday February 11, 2011, at 6:30pmCT
For more information on Birding 101 classes - the Great Backyard Bird Count and how you can participate contact Barbara Armitage (270) 250-2979. "Birds of Kentucky"]" Field Guide by Stan Tekiela and the Adair County Wild Bird Seed Mix are available at Day and Day Feed and Pet, 1011 Campbellsville RD, Columbia, KY. From the Farm, Tucker's Station, Barbara Armitage



This story was posted on 2011-01-18 03:18:38
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Birds of Kentucky: Cowbirds change habits before a storm



2011-01-18 . The Farm at Tucker's Station, Bull Run RD, Columbia, KY. Photo by Barbara Armitage
"Cowbirds find comfort in large flocks preferring to feed in large fields," writes Barbara Armitage. "However, under times of stress they can empty a feeder fast."

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Birds of Kentucky: Goldfinches need to bulk up before storm



2011-01-18 . The Farm at Tucker's Station, Bull Run RD, Columbia, KY. Photo by Barbara Armitage
"Small birds like these Goldfinches don't have the body mass that the larger birds do so it's even more important for them to bulk up before a storm."

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Birds beat Weather Channel predicting the snow



2011-01-18 . The Farm at Tucker's Station, Bull Run RD, Columbia, KY. Photo by Barbara Armitage
Barbara Armitage says that this January 7, snow proves feeding frenzy of birds is better predictor of bad weather coming than Tv Weathercasters. For this event she scores it: Birds 1 - Weather Channel -Nil.

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