Winter in Vermont: For the Birds

In the winter season, we put out bird feeders to help our feathered-friends weather through the wind and cold. With snow covering the ground, it can be challenging for New England birds to find adequate food in the winter, causing them to travel further while also requiring them to store up energy to keep warm.

Luke comes from a long line of bird watchers and when his Dad passed away last year, he left us a number of bird feeders. We've put them just outside the dining room, so our guests can enjoy the view and watch the visitors during breakfast. With this, feeding the birds has become a sort of honored communion and it’s something he puts extra care into.

Our dog Stout, checking out our guests at the birdfeeders.

Our dog Stout, checking out our guests at the birdfeeders.

With the relatively mild winter this year, our birds are getting a little extra fluffy with all of the delicious breakfast seeds they get from us. With the frequency of their visits to our birdfeeders, you might even say they are eating us out of house and home.

On the B&B menu for the birds; we serve up a mixture of suet and seeds, including sunflower, safflower, and thistle seed. With its popularity amongst the guests, Luke refills the sunflower seeds just about every other day.  The diverse variety of food, feeder shapes and fixtures attracts a wide variety of travelers who fly in to visit.

Of the birds that stick around the central Vermont mountains in the winter, we have a healthy flock of chickadees, blue jays, and cardinals. From time to time, we also see a red-bellied woodpecker, with his red tufted head, who seems particularly attracted to the suet mixture. Mourning doves, nut hatches and hermit thrushes are also frequent fliers here. 

The Northern Shrike, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Northern Shrike, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

This year, we were visited by volunteer leaders of the Christmas bird count, who excitedly reported that they had seen a Northern Shrike on our property. This rare species is the only carnivorous songbird. Unlike our other feathered guests, they frequent the birdfeeders in the hopes of dining upon a succulent little birdie. While we haven’t found any evidence of their feasting, we are excited to provide a healthy habitat for birds in our area. For those who are interested in participating, there’s another backyard bird count coming up on Valentine’s day weekend.

We have a lot to learn from our quiet neighbors and we’re excited to discover new species of birds and wildlife right in our backyard. We’re lucky to have the Green Mountain Audubon Center of Vermont location just a few miles away, in Huntington, VT. We suggest that our Bed and Breakfast guests visit and learn about the plants and animals that are native to central Vermont and check the Cornell Lab or Ornithology for guides of the birds of Vermont.

On our website, we list a map of great Vermont birdwatching sites. There are many rare species that can be found in the Green Mountains. Nature lovers may also enjoy taking some walks on suggested trails in birding territory.

Guests will note, our B&B is decorated with many hand-carved wooden birds that Luke’s Grandfather Bill “Bumpa” McCarthy made. Some even have Luke’s childhood handwriting on them, as they made them together in his woodshop.

We’re excited to continue the legacy of care that Luke’s Father and Grandfather have shown to their feathered neighbors and provide the birds the best food we can offer all winter long. We do have to be careful to pull the birdfeeders in before the spring thaw, or we’ll have bears coming by for breakfast!

  - Carin McCarthy