Monday, February 14, 2011


Sometimes I am so amazed by what I am seeing that I am transfixed. Running to get a camera didn't enter my mind. I am so sorry, I wish I were better trained. I kept thinking in the back of my mind that surely I could find a representation of what I was seeing on the Internet. Everything is on the Internet. Evidently, not this.

I have told friends and family familiar with snow events what I saw and they have all said they have never seen it. I am hoping you all have and it is common for then I didn't miss recording a rare evolutionary event.

We recently had a rather deep snow, 9 to 10 inches that was powder fine on first fall. It was a dry snow that would have made a skier gleeful. As you probably know, I spend our few snow days a year with my nose smushed against the window glass enjoying the view, especially the actual act of the snow falling. Something I have yet to tire of.

I had my bird feeders full and the over 200 birds were buzzing. Then I noticed some birds that had landed on the snow away from the feeders. They sank, almost out of sight. I was stunned. Who know birds sank in snow? Those tiny almost weightless creatures were not supported at all by the snow. It seemed to suck them in.

I was getting ready to put my fish net to work as I prepared to go out and scoop those little darlings out of the snow before they froze. Fortunately, I then saw them hop out of the holes and fly off.

What I saw next is what I wished I had recorded. Some of the birds had devised a plan for landing on the fresh snow. They pulled their wings over their heads looking for all the world like Count Dracula with his cape. This arched cape of feathers, with tips pointing down and resting on the snow, keeps the birds on the surface. They could then peck at the snow and waddle a bit before flying off.

The only thing I could find on the Net was this picture of the angel image the birds leave in the snow with their Dracula stance. This is reportedly the image caused by a Blue Jay. My little sparrows, wrens and finches didn't leave a discernible image.

Now after the snow settled, the birds were able to scamper across the surface with out sinking. The same thing happened with Mighty Dog, without the cape effect of course.

His first forays were unhappy ones for he sank to where his little butt hole was below snow level. Completely stymied, he was unable to relieve himself. We were faced with either a painful bladder, constipation or breaking house training rules. None of those were acceptable.

I was able to shovel him a path to the carport where he set up his toilet. Aahhh. By the second day, he could partially navigate the snow. He could take a dozen steps across the surface before one leg would sink in a soft spot leaving him seriously tilted and with a startled expression. He wasn't happy but functional.

His little brown dropping stood out starkly on the white snow till its warmth caused the snow to melt and swallow them from sight. Day three, the snow had hardened enough that Mighty could now run across the surface of the snow with no problems. He was rather cocky about it. The birds no longer even left tiny claw marks.

The snow was relatively short lived. The end of day four almost saw it vanish. We have 60's in our future forecast so unless we get another storm, my chance to capture that bird phenomenon is slim. Has anyone else seen this?


  1. I can't say I have ever seen that in all my years in the Chicago area but it sounds fascinating! I hope others that have seen it link any photos!

  2. I've never seen anything like what you describe those birds doing, even when I lived in Seattle and Oregon where we occasionally got a lot of snow. Very interesting. Glad Mighty Dog is managing. I'm sure we humans would have a little adjusting to do if 10 inches of snow suddenly appeared in our bathrooms.

  3. I haven't seen birds sinking in the snow either, but maybe because the snow was soon frozen over. I remember my cat though, walking gingerly in the snow and shaking its legs each time it took a step.

  4. I have never seen that. Um...were you wearing your butt ugly glasses at the time?

  5. Isn't it fascinating to watch as the tiny birds fold their wings to land like gliders, on top of the fresh snow? I have seen this, but what really amazed me, is the way a partridge will dive in the snow to stay hidden undercover, from the kestrel. It's their survival mode.
    Love this entry. I love the impression. Now I have to find my photos of the impressions.

  6. Patti,
    You are an observer of life (and birds). For all the snow I've seen in my life, I've never watched birds in snow. You are so good to shovel for Mighty. I had Wetoe, my chihuahua for 16 years and I always shoveled a path for him and a little "poopy park." Your snow must be disappeared by now. It's close to 50 deg here now and that's a heat wave. But it'll be up and down. Love to you.....on this Valentines Day

  7. Luckie has considerably longer legs than mighty was her bathroom facilities were adequate, maybe a tad too cold.

    I spent most of the snows coughing and hacking so only too the two pictures I placed in previous post.

    But today while Husband fishes I may sit in the sun a bit to sterilize myself, unless the doctor thinks I needa shot in the butt.

    I knew steroids put tgemporary weight on you but so do antibiotics according to Weight Watchers, It is all water retention, but I might beg to differ with them.

    My sister in Texas is inspired to look into flower bed preparation todaym so that furry overstuffed ground hog may have been right.

  8. I've never seen it but I hope I do!
    it sounds wonderful, more magic from Mother Nature

  9. No, Patti, can't say that I have seen that. Fascinating! This past week I did see a bird 'eating' snow though. A big grackle sat on top of the mound of snow covering the bird bath and took about a dozen bites of snow, just like he/she was drinking water.

    I was amazed at the photo of the bird 'angel wings in the snow.' What a lovely thing!

  10. Patti,
    That really is amazing and no, I have never been witness to that. I grew up in Ohio where snow was plentiful and still never had viewed that behavior but I bet it was fun to watch.
    Thanks for sharing that image with us, yeah, and well MIghty Dog's droppings as well :)
    Happy Valentine's Day!

  11. A wonderful description of the phenomena you witnessed. I've never seen this but do believe Nature has mysterious ways of coping.

  12. No, I haven't heard or seen what you saw. Now, get your camera ready and wait for the next snow. Winter is not over.

  13. I haven't ever seen it, but I absolutely love the description, patti!

  14. I too feed the birds like crazy (50lbs of black oil sunflower seed last week) and have never been fortunate to witness such bizarre behavior. Golly gee, I wish you could of filmed it.

    God bless and have a marvelous Valentine's Day sweetie!!!

  15. I once shoveled a 200-foot path so our potbellied pig, Bud, could get from his residence to his food dish. He watched me coming, then meandered calmly. Whereas I, on my way back, fell in the snow and then lay there, watching Bud eat his dinner out of the weather.

  16. I've watched birds and snow for many many decades and never seen the like of this. I do know grouse tunnel into the snow to keep warm and avoid hawks and other predators though.

  17. bettyl
    I would love to see a picture of the bird sinking. It was so weird.

    Ha, great point. Ten inches of snow in my bathroom might imhibit me also.

    Reader Wil,
    Cats are so funny when they get their feet wet. I was tempted to let mine see their first snow but I didn't.

    Ha ha, that would explain a lot but I had my Sunday-go-to-meeting glasses on.

    When I was looking for pictures or conformation, I saw that about the partridge. Amazing adaptation. Thank you for not making me feel so alone. So glad you too have seen this behavior.

    You are a good mama. We do what we have to for our pets. It hit 70 today, no more snow.

    I tried a bit of that sterilization myself today. Wasn't it beautfiful? Hope the sunshine helped your lungs.

    It makes you wonder about the first bird that figured it out. Nature is amazing.

    I think that is what they were doing when they were making the angels. I have a water fountain but it is always crowded.

    So far, I seem to be in the minority here. Thank goodness Dar saw it. I was beginning to doubt myself.
    Have a great day.

    Some bird had to start this behavior. But I did notice not all of them could do it.

    Now I really hope we get another snow. I really need a picture of it.

    Thanks. If it weren't for Dar, I'd begin to believe I didn't really see it.

    If I am ever blessed with another chance, you bet I will get it on film.
    Back at ya for a great Valentines Day.

    Linda Myers,
    Now that is funny. We really do put our selves out there for our animals don't we.

    Now that is depressing. I was counting on you to back me up. It has to be a new, dry snow. Hope one of us gets a picture.

  18. I have never seen either of those bird antics ... you will have to hang a small camera around your neck in future ...'be prepared' like the scouts lol. I love animal antics ....our cats have a love/hate relationship with snow.

  19. I'm not certain I ever noticed the bird behavior. Great descriptions. :)

  20. I never have knowingly seen that, Patti....It sounds fantastic. Oh how I wish you had had your camera at hand and could have taken pictures of this amazing sight!

    Thank you so much, my dear Parri, for your very kind and caring words about Betty. It is a very hard time for a lot of people who loved her so included.

  21. We don't get the powdery kind of snow very often, we get the heavy weight stuff. I can't say I have ever seen a bird sink into the snow around here. But when we had our dogs, we always had to shovel several paths out into the grass for them, otherwise I would have had to clean off the patio and I would rather shovel before it happened then after it happened. LOL It was funny, they would walk to the end of the path, do their business and come back, sometimes it was so deep, where it had been shoveled, you couldn't even see the dog, going down the path. We're suppose to get some warmer weather by the week-end, so they say. Thanks for your visits, sorry for the past few weeks it seems I haven't been making my rounds.

  22. I've never seen birds sink in the snow, either. Amazing story and photo of the bird angel! I'm your neighbor to the north in MO and we've had more snow than we wanted this year. I've watched the birds at the feeders and there's a gazillion bird tracks on the snow so it held them up.

    I like your writing so you have a new follower. I'm halfway between 60 and 70 and so hoping that 70 will be the new 60! I'll enjoy reading to see what you say about it! Take care, Cheryl

  23. I don't think I've ever seen something like that, but it's absolutely enchanting!

    I wonder if the larger birds do something similar...

    I will have to keep an eye out and try and get a picture!!!

  24. Many of our birds leave because snow impedes their abilities. How resourceful of those would handle the rare snow. I wonder how some manage to stay warm when it becomes severly cold.

  25. We are getting 60 degree weather here this week. Lots of yard work in the forecast. My cats used to follow each other stepping gingerly in each other's paw prints. Animals are clever. Observing them and taking notes is clever too. It's called writing an an "ethogram" by animal behaviorists. You are a scientist and probably didn't know it. Dianne

  26. If I saw it I wouldn't have know what it was, but this is amazing, the snow angle is so cool.

  27. Angie,
    If it were not for Dar, I would think I halucinated. That and the snow angel are my only hope. I really need a picture.

    Gosh, I was counting on you and troutbirder to tell me it was common.

    My heart goes out to you and her family. I know how deeply you will miss her. I am going to try to get her old movies. I am so sorry.

    Well the warm weather coming your way has hit here. Two days in a row the windows have been opened and I have actually sunned myself. Felt good.

    Welcome to TNS and thank you for commenting and following. Always nice to meet a neighbor. I will check your blog now.

    Rocky Mountain Woman,
    Please do get a picture. I am getting a bit paranoid now. Watch for the birds away from the feeder where the snow hasn't been packed by little feet.

    Mine fluffed their feathers out to keep warm. At one point they all looked either pregnant or morbidly obese.

    Not sure how scientific I was but I am consumed with a fierce curosity and it is curosity that feeds a scientist. Maybe I missed my calling.

    Linda Starr,
    Next time I am getting a pictue. That is a promise. Other wise this just qualifies as a "big foot" sighting.

  28. Fascinating! Must send your link to some birding friends to see if they have pictures.

  29. ...his little butthole was below the snow level. SO glad I wasn't drinking coffee at the moment I read that. Great visual!

    I've never seen birds create a winged support system--how very cool. However, to see it now I would have to travel where there is snow, and that is just not going to happen if I have anything to say about it. Although the weather here in the south has been trying to create a wintry existence for us so far this year.

  30. marylee,
    I sure hope they are out there. Thanks for trying for me.

    RV Vagabonds,
    That condition really does inhibit a fellow.
    Since you are making it a career to dodge the snow, don't guess you will run across it.

  31. I've never heard of this, but now I am intrigued!