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How do the birds know that snow is coming?

Photo update: Snowmageddon arrives:

A file photo taken here in March 2014 — a cardinal

While looking out the upstairs windows with Lily this morning, it was apparent that the birds were unusually active and agitated. The traffic into and out of the arbor vitae trees was particularly busy, as though the birds are laying claims to shelter space from the heavy snow that is forecast here for tonight and tomorrow.

All of the arbor vitae trees (there are 14 of them in the abbey’s front yard) have little openings in the foliage that the birds use for flying in and out. I’m pretty sure that the openings actually are made by the birds and their frequent traffic. The birds can fly straight in with little or no wing contact. Watching even for a little while, it’s apparently that a single arbor vitae tree shelters many birds, and different species at the same time. They fly in at different levels. Six or more levels per tree would be my guess.

There is an English word for what I think these openings might be called — smeuse. I have never heard this word used, but Robert Macfarlane’s book Landmarks, on the rewilding of the landscape through language, defines smeuse as “the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal.” I don’t know whether the word also would apply to a hedge-like tree. I hope it does. Maybe readers in the U.K. could shed light on that question?

When there is heavy snow, it’s always a problem finding a place to put bird seed where the birds can get it. It occurs to me that just throwing food into the arbor vitae trees might work.

Some of the abbey’s arbor vitae trees

Doorways for birds. Are they smeuses?

The human equivalent: All the milk (except for the organic milk!) has vanished two days before the storm is due.

Snowmageddon approaches from the southwest.

One Comment

  1. frigast wrote:

    SMEUSE, according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (probably blend of ‘smoot’ (dialect for narrow lane) and ‘meuse’ (a gap, a hole – pron ‘myüs).
    Smeuse is pronounciated ‘smyüz/s (parallel to smew 🙂 – but with a Z or s in the end (free choice :-))
    SMEUSE is English dialect and means ‘a hole in a hedge or wall’ – one could also say ‘a loophole’ even that’ll have a figurative meaning apart from the material one.
    Now, I think I’ve done my nerd service for today 🙂

    Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

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