BIRD WATCH: It makes perfect birdsense

The effect barometric pressure has on birds’ lives has been widely studied and written about.

However, just when you think you have it down, the bird action sometimes confuses you.

November greeted us with a roaring downpour. Then it cleared and freezing temperatures were in the weather reports.

The birds almost disappeared.

Then they arrived in droves.

The phrase, “warm, wet and windy” often means insect-eating birds arrive in good numbers and are active throughout the trees and bushes.

This type of weather usually means a warming trend that activates the bug population. Birds take advantage of the increase in available food. A dropping barometer reveals this to humans while birds sense the air pressure change.

When a low pressure moved into this area with the expected wet weather, it didn’t last long. The birds had recognized that a high pressure was moving in right behind it.

The robins arrived again, just as they did a week or two before.

This time, they not only brought the yard to noisy life; they finally descended on the mountain ash tree that was still covered with red berries.

The high pressure brought a drop in the temperature that obviously made those berries palatable.

The cooler temperatures had a different effect on the bug-eating birds.

They emptied the feeders containing the lard or suet mixtures in one day.

Once the sun warmed parts of the yard, action picked up almost everywhere. Where the bugs began to stir, these smaller birds followed. One of those areas was the bird bath and near the feeders.

Even as the feeding birds took advantage of the different foods, berries and bugs, they also acted as if they hadn’t had a bath for weeks.

The show in the bath eclipsed what was happening in the feeders and trees.

Two friends were visiting that day and the birds took over the conversation near the kitchen window.

Right in the middle of someone’s sentence, about twenty or thirty bushtits crowded into the bath.

They are so tiny and look like miniature fluffy bundles of nonstop movement. They huddle together, wiggling and splashing and doing their imitation of small children in a wading pool. You can’t resist trying for a photograph.

When one of our company was doing just that, another visitor dropped into the bath and the bushtits exploded into the nearby bushes and trees.

The first Townsend’s warbler of the fall stole the show.

The photographer had a new subject and even as he was snapping away, a Hutton’s vireo popped into the water and a bathing chickadee immediately took offense.

Now, the warbler was into the bushes and the vireo followed suit. While we tried to get good looks at this interesting mix of birds, the action only increased.

Robins were flying from the bath to the mountain ash and throughout the yard.

A young flicker landed on a tree right near the bath and looked like it was going to dive in.

However, a red-breasted sapsucker suddenly popped into the water and began bathing with gusto while warning others to stay away.

Then a brown creeper landed on the tree and waited for its bath.

This colorful action had my guests moving from one window to another.

There were birds everywhere.

Then, there were none.

They were melting away and disappearing.

A pressure system wasn’t to blame.

Somewhere in the area, known only to the birds, a hawk was seen or sensed.

Birds and what they know and sense, will probably always fascinate humans. There’s so much we don’t know.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email:

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