Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bird-Tending on an Iced-In Day

As the rain began to fall and freeze on all surfaces yesterday afternoon at the outset of a rare winter storm along the South Carolina coast, I began to think about emergency preparedness. Fortunately, I had my hurricane-readiness kit from which to draw.

As the local weatherman told of a high probability of power outrages caused by trees and branches brought down by the weight of freezing rain, I brought out such items and took such steps as the following:

A hand-cranked lantern that yields 2 hours of light for each 10 minutes cranked.

A large flashlight freshly filled with batteries.

Prep of my Hard Rock Cafe radio with 4 AA batteries. Rockin' and rollin' ready.

Lots of candles and matches and candleholders.

Wrapped outdoor pipe with foam, sealing it with duct tape.

Left slow trickle of water running in all spigots.

Left on a light in the garage and the utility room for a tad extra heat, hedging against freeze-ups with temperatures dropping into the teens.

As it turned out, we caught a lucky break. Instead of freezing rain hitting us all night, the precipitation turned to sleet before midnight, That lessened the chances of accumulations that would bring down trees. We had no frozen pipes, not any loss of power last night or today. Thank goodness.

In all, I estimate we got about 1/4-inch of ice, topped by an inch of sleet, and an inch of snow after the final changeover in hours just before dawn today. The result was totally treacherous for an old guy like me who traded in his hiking boots for sneakers when he became a beach bum five years ago. With the aid of my sturdy Hawthorne walking stick, I managed carefully to make it to all the bird feeders this morning carrying of bucket of seed for refilling. But it was a scary venture -- a piece of cake for my 10-year-old granddaughter sledding the slick backyard on a boogie board, but a treacherous course for a senior not wanting to fall and bust up his replaced knee or wind up in the hospital for a hip replacement.  Later, after noticing the birds were harvesting most of the seeds off the ground instead of the feeders, I just stood at the edge of a very slippery patio and threw the seed to the ground for them. Later, my son Bobby thoughtfully scraped the ice off my patio, front driveway, and car -- all of which was hard work that I much appreciated.

Shy at First, Birds Soon Feasted Under the Lantern
It has been a great day to just kick back and do a lot of birdwatching from the comfort of the sunroom. No, Superdawg and I have not attempted a walk. She hasn't even begged for one. Instead, she has gone out a few times on her own, and even romped a little with the grandkids before realizing that the ground was none too stable under her paws either. She didn't stay long.

Watching the hungry birds has been great practice for the Great Backyard Bird Count, which will happen over Saint Valentine's Day weekend. We have had a colorful assortment: Cardinals, Orioles, Eastern Towhees, Field Sparrows, Hooded Warblers, Mourning Doves, and many others I need to research and identify.

The temperature did not rise above freezing all day, and there will be a hard freeze again tonight. Local schools will be closed for a third straight day tomorrow. Yes, this is beach-resort country and all this is highly unusual. But Nature brings us surprises that can yield delight along with the challenges. Dealing with this certainly beats coping with a hurricane (though it has provided a little practice for that, too).

                                                     © Robert G. Holland   2014

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