Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Winter Walk

The surest sign of spring is not crocuses popping their friendly heads out of the snow.  It's not leaf buds growing huge on trees.  It's when the quiet solitude of a forest coated in snow becomes loud with the lusty chatter of birdsong.  Yes, the birds are beginning their mating calls and defining their territory even though it's still cold outside!

A chubby robin perched in his tree!
I went into the woods on Friday to look for migrating bird couples.  It's too early, you might think!  But eastern bluebirds actually begin their nesting in early March.  In fact, I saw some last month when I went out into the woods here in Ohio, but some of them don't migrate.  I thought I was looking at an indigo bunting, this bluebird was that vibrant.  Of course I got too excited and forgot to grab my phone for a picture.  Not that I would have been able to snap one anyway.  For some reason, birds don't usually sit still enough for me to take their pictures.


Unless, of course, they are duckies!  I found a few sets of mated pairs at the wetlands.  Mallards begin their courtship in the fall and it continues through the winter.  I'm not sure exactly if that means they're completely paired off by the spring breeding season.  I watched one male fly up and chase off another pair.  Or maybe he was trying to mate with the female and they decided to high-tail it out of there.  But these ducks were the only ones that I saw so far.  I am planning to keep checking, just to see how many different types of water fowl I can find before spring.

Can you imagine being a duck in this place?  This is like duckie heaven, even though the water is pretty low.

Nothing like a monochromatic winter walk.
Yep, it snowed here on Friday.  A light dusting, but it made the walk feel magical.  Even though the snow was beginning to melt by this point, there were still some places where it sat, feathery and light.

Snow collected on this bush.  I could actually still see some individual snowflake shapes!
 At least it didn't collect on the walkways.  And it wasn't terribly cold outside.  I mean, it was cold, probably about 33 or 34 degrees Fahrenheit, but that is balmy compared to the fifteen degree average of last winter.

Despite last year's crazy snowfall, I have decided that I really do like snow.  Or at least, if it's going to be cloudy, I would want it to snow (as opposed to rain, or just staying overcast all day).  There's something kind of calming about looking out the window and watching big fat flakes falling on your porch.  And I have to admit, I really admire the monochromatic, chiaroscuro effect that even a light dusting of snow causes.

Even though the sky is gray, I don't feel down.  The brightness of the snow helps to keep my mood uplifted.  It may be just the fun nostalgia of a day playing in the snow, it may be because I like to imagine what the world looked like ten thousand years ago, with its snow blanketed forests.  It may be because the snow reminds me of solitude and reminds me to center myself. As long as I don't feel gross and depressed, I'm okay with snow.

Three robins chilling in this tree... probably posing for mates.
Also, as long as there are cute birdies to watch, I feel better.  The house finches that came to visit my porch feeder are back again this year, so I am making sure to keep their feeder well stocked with black oil sunflower seeds.  I will try to get a picture of them this year.  Hopefully they are nesting nearby; since they only eat seeds, even when breeding, I'll have to make sure they are kept well stocked this spring.

Because the happy bird songs made me feel so peaceful, I'm going to leave you with a video that I took.  Don't watch it, but listen to all the different bird sounds.  I managed to catch a red bellied woodpecker's kwirr call on it!  I heard his call (it's one of like, the ten that I can actually identify by sound) and immediately got on my phone to find the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Red Bellied Woodpecker page, which has all the bird sounds and calls on it.  I played that on repeat a couple dozen times and got him to come in pretty close!  Then he caught on that it was just a recording and stopped calling.  But at least I now know that I can call in woodpeckers during the day just like I can call in owls on a night hike!

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