A collection of bird feeders was called the wildlife feeding station when I was working as a naturalist years ago at Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park Reserve, near Victoria.

The feeders were and continue to be extremely active spots on cold January mornings. The visitors are numerous. American tree sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, house sparrows, four types of woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, and northern cardinals are the usual visitors, sometimes within a few minutes of observation. A person might even see squirrels, shrews or an opossum or weasel.

Typically in late afternoon while birds devoured a few more tidbits before disappearing into the cold night, several white-tailed deer would walk in. Immediately, they would start to eat the cracked corn and sunflower seeds. These beauties generally came about the same time of the day, and sometimes we would see a dozen or more at the feeders. Many people saw their first wild deer through the windows at Lowry on those January late afternoons in the 1970s and ’80s.

The deer did not depend upon us for their food needs. The feeding station is more of a place to stop for a quick snack. This time of the year they nibble on the twigs of sugar maple, basswood, staghorn sumac, redosier dogwood, red cedar, and other woody plants. A healthy deer on average eats close to five pounds of browsed twigs on a winter’s day for every 100 pounds of body weight.

Jim Gilbert taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.