Where Have All The Small Birds Gone?

Elder Taoist
Reciprocal
Published in
6 min readOct 21, 2022

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The recent drought has upset our local ecology.

Bald eagle atop ancient Douglas Fir. (Author’s photo)

This tree is outside my living room window. Usually it is full of small birds who make it their home; sort of like a giant bird house. Of course, when an eagle shows up they make themselves scarce.

The picture below zooms in on the trunk above the green boughs. Notice the holes that have been made by woodpeckers. These are often nesting places for smaller birds during the spring.

Many small holes that birds use for nesting. (Author’s photo)

On any given day there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of small birds around my property. Between this nesting tree and the abundance of salal that is the primary undergrowth, the birds find it a perfect sanctuary.

This year is different. Until this morning when we had a good rain, we had been in a drought since June. Four months of no rain seems to have chased the small birds away.

Until last month, the small birds seemed to be doing okay. However, in the last weeks they have disappeared. I’m hoping that it is just temporary, that they have found somewhere to get water and that they will be back. I’m hoping that they did not die of thirst. That would be very sad.

We usually have a wide variety of smaller birds, from Wrens:

Wren. (Photo by Amee Fairbank-Brown on Unsplash)

Chickadees:

Chickadee. (Photo by Erin Minuskin on Unsplash)

Common Yellowthroats:

Common Yellowthroat. (Photo by Tyler Moulton on Unsplash)

and Hummingbirds:

Hummingbird. (Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash)

to Goldfinches:

Goldfinch. (Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash)

Starlings:

Starling. (Photo by Daniil Komov on Unsplash)

and Robins.

Robin. (Photo by Zach Stoebner on Unsplash)

Now all we have left are Seagulls and Terns who don’t seem to need fresh water the way the small birds do. We did put out dishes of water for them once we noticed how few there were. However, I suspect it was too little, too late.

Lately, on top of the drought, we have had a lot of smoke from forest fires. This is very late in the year for this many fires. Usually by the last half of October, the west coast of Canada is getting lots of rain and temperatures are significantly colder than we have had recently.

, who lives south of me in the US Pacific Northwest, published an interesting article yesterday about the smoke we have been dealing with.

The good news is that today it finally started to rain! I didn’t used to be a pluviophile however the droughts from the last two summers have made me a convert. Below you can see the rain water piling up. Even the natural hollow in the rock in our patio, which small birds use as a bird bath, is starting to fill up with water.

This morning’s rain on the patio! (Author’s photo)

Today’s weather forecast is promising. It is calling for at least a 60% chance of rain for eight of the next nine days. It is also forecasting temperatures that are cooler than they have been lately. I hope they’re right. I’m sure the forests would appreciate an end to this late fire season.

I hope the wetter, cooler weather will bring the small birds back. I miss them and their singing. From the hummingbird that would try and scare me away if I got too close to his nest when I was working in my garden, to the wrens and finches that would bath in the natural bird bath on our patio. The each has their own personality.

When I was sitting on the patio, one of the finches would make a point of letting me know if her bath was getting too dry. She would land by the hollow and, if it was not to her liking, she would hop over to near where I was sitting and stare at me until I got the message. So I would get up and refill the hollow with fresh water. Then she would go about having her bath.

Here’s hoping that the drought and the smoky air are finally done for this year. And that my picky bather will be back!

I am frequently inspired by other writers on Medium. Here are some I’ve particularly enjoyed reading recently:

Once again,

nature challenge prompted this piece. Here is her lovely article about the joy she feels when birds sing:

My geographic neighbour

discusses another aspect of the local drought and how it has contributed to forest fires and smoky air and related issues. Her cat is not amused!

gives us an interesting history of when and how houseplants came about as more than just cooking herbs kept in the kitchen.

did a beautiful job of writing to last week’s nature challenge. His muse was working much better than mine last week. Excellent article William!

generated this interesting article about the pros and cons of reading a lot of books. Apparently the article is partially generated using artificial intelligence (AI) tools. I’m not sure how I feel about that, except to say that I would rather support works written in total by the author. Then again, how would I know if I can’t tell the difference? That being said, it does raise some interesting points. See what you think.

And finally, to borrow a close from

, thank you, Reciprocal, and its editors, , , and , for all the continuing support you give to the writers of this fine publication.

I wish you well!

The Elder Taoist ☯

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Elder Taoist
Reciprocal

Septuagenarian Autistic/Asperger with HSP and OCD tendencies. Does math for fun. Endlessly curious about connectedness of nature, from stars to trees to bugs.