"It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

Perhaps not, but on the other hand, is it nice for Mother Nature to fool all of us?

Someone must have really made her mad because she seems to have seized control of the weather and turned it against us.

Some of you may recall a TV ad in the 1970s for Chiffon margarine. Mother Nature tasted it and thought it was butter - her delicious "natural" butter.

When she found out that it was not butter, that it was Chiffon margarine instead, she created a loud roll of thunder accompanied by a streak of bright lightening to show her anger at being tricked.

And she shouted, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

I suspect that she's holding a grudge, and every once in a while she decides to remind us of the power that she possesses.

Hurricane Sandy passed furiously through the mid-Atlantic region several days ago displaying the magnitude of that power. As the hurricane came and went, it left people, pets, and many wildlings at a loss for homes and habitat in its wake.

You can be sure that the force of the storm affected many birds. Shore birds were pulled away from their coastal environment while migrating species were tossed off course. Many bird watchers are identifying these feathered fugitives in areas where they've rarely, or never, been seen before.

Mother Nature has shown other signs of a bad attitude.

Every few years she sends an irruption of bird species to our region - birds that normally live and breed in Alaska and northern Canada.

When a food shortage occurs in the far north, these birds migrate southward in irregular patterns to warmer regions in search of food.

Species that find their way to Maryland during an irruption include pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, purple finches, crossbills, redpolls, red-breasted nuthatches, and snowy owls among others.

I have read that availability of food seems to influence migratory patterns of these birds more than weather does.

When food supplies become depleted, birds are forced to move south in order to survive.

Pine siskins have been showing up this fall in large numbers at many feeding stations in Carroll County and surrounding areas. I have heard the pine siskin called the gypsy of the bird world because it is likely to turn up just about anywhere without warning or invitation. Even uninvited, it is always a welcome guest as it is not a frequent visitor.

Siskins most often travel in flocks, and it's not unusual to find them mixed with other small species. You may have seen them without taking notice. They are members of the finch family and closely related to goldfinches. They are about the same size as goldfinches but their bills are slightly longer and narrower.

Kenn Kaufman, noted birder and author, describes the pine siskin as "like a goldfinch in camouflage."

Its plumage looks very much like that of a female goldfinch dressed in its winter garb, but the siskin is heavily streaked.

A touch of yellow on each wing and at the base of its tail are most visible in flight. Male and female look alike.

Look for pine siskins at your feeders.

Their seed preferences include thistle, black oil sunflower, and sunflower hearts.

They are attracted to a variety of feeder styles and adapt well to clinging and hanging when foraging in the landscape.

While you're looking, keep an eye out for purple finches, red-breasted nuthatches, and other species that you are not accustomed to seeing in the backyard.

And keep the feeders filled for the familiar birds that visit regularly.

It may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, but it certainly is nice to feed the birds.

The Carroll County Bird Club will meet this Wednesday, November 7 at 7:30 pm at the Westminster Senior Center, 125 Stoner Avenue. Dave and Maureen Harvey will talk about Birding in Borneo and Peninsula Malaysia.

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