Yesterday was above freezing for the first time in several weeks here on the mountain. The day was also sunny and calm, so it felt quite balmy. As quickly as the thermometer climbed, my feeder birds disappeared. Oh, I had a few of them at the feeders, but the number and variety of them was way down.
Snow still covers much of the mountain, though I can see a few bare patches in the open areas that get many hours of the day's weak sun and that aren't tree-covered. In those spots, I saw flocks of birds. Likely many of them were my own feeder birds, off collecting whatever natural food and grit they could find in the newly snow-free areas.
On the colder days, the birds don't seem to travel far from my feeders. Even when they're not actually chowing down, they perch near the feeders, watching their neighbors eat. Flying around uses a lot of energy, and during winter, when food is not as easy to find, I often find they are less likely to fly off than during the summer. They seem content to stay near the food source and hoard their own activity so they don't use more than they take in.
But yesterday (and today) the weather is warmer and the local birds are suddenly more willing and able to travel further than the trees directly above the feeders. This disappearance is a temporary one. In spring, when the birds can once again regularly find natural food, they will abandon the feeder. That's when I know it's time to take it down. But this time that will not happen, and the birds will be soon be back. The January thaw ends tomorrow. I've already gotten their food ready.