For a few residents of Valentine, a quick flash of color outside the window gets them grabbing binoculars and looking closely at a visitor to their bird feeder.
The bird may be a species not seen before, such as grosbeak or unusual woodpecker. Typically there are the regular black-and-white and grey sorts of visitors, the coloration sometimes including a prominent dash of red. The food at the feeders during winter are beneficial for cheery chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and finches. Juncos – a visitor from northern lands - also regularly appreciate the food. A boisterous Blue Jay or two is another area resident that may occur. Each of these species are present daily where food is available. Occasionally a predatory Sharp-shinned Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk arrives in search of avian fare.
Although feeding the wild birds is best known as an activity for the winter months, it is not limited to this season for some bird watchers at Valentine, especially in the vicinity of the mill pond, where there are least five households with feeding enthusiasts.
At the Ray Scholl residence along Lake Shore Drive, sunflowers seeds are kept available year-round.
“I enjoy seeing different kinds of birds,” he said. There are three bird guides and binoculars readily available at the picture window so he can identify any avian visitors. Orioles and buntings of the warm months have also been appreciated, he said. His now deceased wife, Jackie, started feeding birds about 30 years ago.
The feeder is usually filled daily, notably because some squirrels can quickly consume the tasty seeds.
At 8th and Main Street, Kerry Krueger also provides food for the birds throughout the year.
“I enjoy God’s little creatures,” he said. They are a “finer thing of life.”
“I love my cardinals,” Krueger said. The view of the golden color of the American Goldfinch is also a regular event. Among other species that have occurred, has been the Black-headed Grosbeak. At his feeder, along with another at his next-door neighbor, many birds visit to forage.
A bunch of English Sparrows linger in some shrubs nearby here this winter, within their chosen shelter by a regular source of food.
Krueger has been feeding birds for five years.
Sunflower seeds are the normal fare, though he sometimes provides a fruit and nut mix for the woodpeckers, represented by the Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker, both the red-shafted and yellow-shafted variety.
John Harms, another resident along Lake Shore Drive, uses a standard feed mix available at local stores. He and his now deceased wife Jokay started feeding birds 30 years ago. “I enjoy seeing them,” at the feeder just south of his house.
This is the sentiment of a nearby neighbor, who also likes to watch the lively birds which visit the back year feeder, also adjacent to the Mill Pond.
Within Valentine, a feeder at the 400 block of north Main Street has been attracting many American Goldfinch. A flock of about 30 of these finches have been seen this month.
Elsewhere in the vicinity, winter birds have included American Robins feeding on berries of red cedar trees. Cedar Waxwings have also been seen occasionally, feeding at berry trees. The flock of Eurasian Collored Dove have moved west from the livestock market, to where there is more tree shelter and a source of feed by the Danielski building.
Other wild birds have been appreciating the flow of unfrozen water of Minnechaduza Creek, below the Mill Pond dam. A few Mallards and a foraging, fish-eating Belted Kingfisher have been noted.