Short winter for the dark-eyed juncos

Short winter for the dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis).


The crocuses in the photo above are lovely and harbingers of spring for sure. Today is March 11. Yesterday the temp was a record 82°. Yikes. The problem is what’s not in the photo. No dark-eyed juncos. Not anywhere in my garden. They are gone. Last winter (2014-2015), the juncos left the end of April. I’m not sure when they came. This winter (2015-2016), they finally showed up in January and are gone in early March. That’s a short winter for the juncos.

Here are the last photos I took of the juncos on February 22. The snow from the week before is gone. Last year (2015) March was bitterly cold with ice and snow. We thought spring would never come. This year (2016), on February 16, the juncos were cavorting in a snowstorm. On February 13 and 14, the low temps were sub-zero. But, Christmas eve day this winter had a 72° high, and March 10, yesterday, broke the record at 82°. It’s just crazy.

I guess the juncos are off to the boreal forest up north. I hope they find food to eat and good nesting habitat to raise their young.

Juncos tend to return to the same place each winter. I like to think the same juncos are coming back to the feeders, or maybe their offspring are returning. But if winters are lasting only 2 months here, that may pose problems for the juncos. How adaptable are they. Can they just up and decide to winter in a different place. So much not known about the habits of birds. At least, not by me. Anyway, I want my juncos to come back to my feeders. Guess I’m feeling pretty possessive about juncos.

I complain as much as anyone about cold weather and ice and snow, but each season has its pleasures. Dark-eyed juncos in winter, for example.

Oh, well. I console myself over the early departure of the juncos by enjoying the crocuses. There are several of them blooming out by the sidewalk. It’s always a surprise where they may appear each year. I think the squirrels carry some of the bulbs around to new places. Anyway, a toddler heading toward town with his mother stopped to admire the crocuses yesterday. He got down on his knees and pointed and talked for a good while. I saw them from the window, so I don’t know what the conversation was about. But it was lovely to see a young one so delighted with a little flower in early spring. I wish for crocuses, and juncos, to light up our lives for many years to come.

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