Image courtesy beeswax.com

By Christopher Zoukis 

Day Two of the Arctic Snow Bombardment — at least, that’s how it probably seems for the birds — has left icy snow covering the ground.  All last night, pigeons displaced due to the snow, huddled together wherever they could find a dry spot out of the wind.  Many congregated under outdoor stairwells.  In fact, perhaps 20 huddled among a pile of blankets discarded under the F-North housing unit’s stairwell (which has been closed due to the icy conditions).  The thought presented by a fellow FCI Petersburg Pigeon Project supporter was that these bunched-up blankets and sheets were probably warmer than the concrete walls.  This seems to make sense.  Regardless, it wasn’t a pleasant night to be a bird.

Luckily for some of the celebrities, their nests are well-fortified against the elements.  Momma Whiteface — the matriarch of the flock — lives in the rafters of the outdoor basketball pavilion, secured in a corner under eaves.  Due to there being a support beam crossing diagonally along the side of the pavilion, she was sheltered from the storm.  This is always a concern due to Mamma’s age getting up there.  She’s been around for several years now, so adverse weather worries us.

Other named birds seemed to have made it through the storm, many of which also nested in the rafters of the basketball pavilion.  Whitey and Betty Ford have a fairly secure nest in a covering over an emergency stairwell along the back of the F-North housing unit.  So, they too should have been safe during the night’s icy and snowy conditions.

The flock seemed to have made it through the night okay.  Come this morning around 6:00 AM they were still huddled under the stairwells.  Coming back from breakfast they could be seen bunched together for warmth.  As the day progressed, they did some of their usual perching wherever there was no snow.  Many were still under the stairwells and along the sides of buildings.  Due to this being the first snowfall for many of the baby pigeons, there were a number of funny mishaps watching them trying to land along the rooftops.  They came to find out that ice is slippery.  No need to worry, none were hurt during these humorous landing attempts.

The only trouble for the FCI Petersburg Pigeon crew concerned the recreation yard.  Since there was two or three inches of snow on the ground, the yard was closed.  This — in conjunction with the birds congregating under stairwells — has made feeding them exceptionally difficult, particularly so since the walkways leading up to the stairwells are closed as well.  After all, to be caught feeding them would almost certainly result in an incident report being issued.  Regardless, the cost would be worth the act, if, or when, it comes to that.

Nothing much to report other than the challenges that the snow has presented.  Our feathered friends are still being fed, although in a more sporadic fashion.  Due to the unorthodox feedings, the seagulls are managing to steal a larger portion of food from the pigeons than they usually manage to, but they need to eat, too.  While some hate the seagulls — they are awfully loud, after all — I see them as another part of nature.  And they are stuck out in the cold along with the pigeons.  So, a certain amount of respect and compassion is due.

Hopefully the yard will be open tomorrow and I’ll be able to provide real updates, not just updates from a distance.  Until then, always remember: a birdie in need is a birdie indeed.  Don’t forget our feathered friends during this exceptionally cold weather.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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