It was a case of déjà vu that shouldn’t have been – déjà vu, that is. I was at the Petersburg Game Area, it was in the middle of winter and I was looking at a flock of bluebirds. They were feeding among the sumac. Not only did it seem like I was here before, I really was here before. It was here only last winter, as a matter of fact, when I came across a similar grouping of winter bluebirds at this same exact location within the game area. I was expecting a repeat of the place and its sumac shrubbery, but wasn’t expecting a reboot of the bluebird flock, however. I was simply out to try my new camera. Fortunately there were bluebirds shining on me, nothing but bluebirds did I see.
The only problem with this scenario is that the birds were, for the most part, co-operating with the bumbling camera operator. They patiently mugged for the lens. They paused while feeding on sumac berries – one of their crucial winter foods – until my pseudo shutter sounded off. Both the somber colored females (see above) and the electric hued males (below) gave equally of their time. As a consequence, I took far too many shots. The only thing left to do was to knit them together into a brief slide show and put them to music (in this case a short guitar ditty I composed last year called “Winter bluebirds”). Take a look and listen here.
It’s easy to like bluebirds even when mediocre images of them are put to bad music. Because of their beauty they are on nearly everyone’s list. They are not called BLUE birds for nothing. While technically it is true that their form of blue is a structural color and not a “real” one, it reflects a truly impressive band width of cerulean (that means that all color gets down to reflected light and sometimes it is un-necessary to think beyond that point. This is one of those times). But one also needs to admire them for their toughness. They are resilient and adaptable birds that can laugh at the bitter winds of January and smirk at the deep freezes of February. A sizable number of Bluebirds overwinter every year. They are not a sign of spring, they are a sign of life on a gray January landscape.
You will rarely see just one bluebird during the cold season. It’s all about Bluebirds, with an emphasis on the plural. Like their relatives, the robins, they become very social when the snow flies. Seeds become their mainstay diet and puffing-up becomes their habit. Winter birds of all sorts puff out their feathers to trap in an insulating layer of air next of their tender skins. Bluebirds are no exception. Although summer bluebird pictures are fine, cold season photos always make them look more like pom-poms. For those who care about such things, the “aw, how cute” factor is increased ten-fold. I mean, look at that adorable photo of the poofy male bluebird shown above. Yes, birds that are on the precipice of frozen death are cuter than those lounging in the lap of mid-summer warmth. This factor does not extend to people who turn red faced and snot-drippy when on the precipice of their frozen death.
One of the main bluebird defenses against the elements is snuggling. On some bitter cold nights they have been known to pack together into a tree cavity to conserve, and share, their warmth. They will also use bluebird nest boxes for the same purpose. I watched a trio of birds hanging about one of these boxes just a few months ago. They were going in and out of the box as if checking it out for future reference. Wow, I’ll bet if I go back to that same bird house I will have another Déjà vu moment! Wait, I think I said that already.