Posts Tagged With: snow!

Song of the snow

After our unexpected Thanksgiving snowfall, I spent Black Friday hitting up a few local spots. Things were quiet everywhere. Maybe the birds were as surprised as we were! Farmers hadn’t had time to spread manure yet, so the fields glittered in the sun while a few sparrows foraged for weed seeds.


This Song Sparrow and a half-dozen friends dipped in and out of the snow under the watchful eyes of a late-lingering American Kestrel.

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Waiting for winter

We’re all leaning in like runners at the starting block, waiting for the year’s last migration to take off. Winter brings us waterfowl by the thousands on the rivers, eagles on the ice harassing that one anomalous gull, finch irruptions, maybe a Sandhill Crane or two…

But it’s all paused now. The weather has been mild so far and the birds haven’t been driven south by frozen water yet. It’s the November Conundrum: cold brings the birds to us, but I really wasn’t ready for this today.


This didn’t last. It melted by late afternoon. The next one will, though, and the snows to follow.

Ready… get set…

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Poem #19

The sheetrock guy

gets no respect. But who else

conceals electrical mysteries

entombs the house’s circulation

tweaks skewed corners

into true.

Tape up the cracks,

skim a coat of serenity

so we can face the world

with untroubled surface

all that’s vulnerable

seamlessly covered over.



Categories: postcard poems, scenery | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Poem #12

‘Geography of a mattress’


Two deep valleys,

a mountain range between.

We scale the peaks

to explore the other’s terrain,

sign treaties, unite two kingdoms.


Or the ridge stands for

barbed wire and no-man’s-land,

each huddled in our trench

praying for a Christmas truce.



Categories: postcard poems, scenery | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Snow day

The view from Kestrel Hill today is horizon-to-horizon snow. 18 inches on top of half a foot already on the ground — that’s a whole world of white.

We had a new roof installed last year, a metal roof. You’ll love it, the  builder assured us, no maintenance and the snow just slides right off! And just as promised, for the several moderate snows we’ve had, the roof clears itself quite efficiently.

Well, this was the first heavy snowfall of the season. And it was impressive, all right: a full rolling broadside as the entire front thundered down. Maybe too impressive! The sleeping cat shot off my shoulder and into the basement. As for me, every time it happens I have to laugh, it’s so exhilarating.

One small problem. I hope no one’s standing on the stoop next time it cuts loose!

Is this the year our reprehensible shed will finally collapse? (One can only hope!)


Since I wasn’t going anywhere anyway, I worked at my Great Backyard Bird Count. I had lots of help:


Lots of couples out for lunch, including the Cardinals.



House Finches…



… and Purple Finches. You wouldn’t believe how many years it took me to tell them apart.



40 or more Robins in the sumac grove.



Two Song Sparrows have stuck it out all season. Angry Birds, anyone?



As well as two Carolina Wrens.

I don’t know how we’ll scale those mountains to keep the feeders full, but I’d hate to disappoint the patrons.






Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, GBBC, Usual suspects | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Schenectady count and … OMG SNOWY OWL!!!!!11!!!!!!

It’s cold. Wicked cold, snot-freezing cold, why-didn’t-I-stay-in-bed cold. But it’s opening day of Christmas Bird Count season, and I was off to Schenectady County.

At 8°F, pigeons huddled for warmth on light poles. As the sky brightened a few birds ventured down to the pavement, joined by others from across the lot. When they all erupted into the air, we realized one of the ‘pigeons’ was a Cooper’s Hawk. It gave up the attack quickly and swung off into a tree. And we started our route.

Things settled into a routine pretty quickly. Cruise slowly along the road, windows cracked for chip notes, get out, stand around stamping our feet, jump back in the car and crank the heat. Repeat, adding a few birds at a time for a few hours. It seemed to be getting colder as the morning wore on. The birds had better sense than the birders.

Then the news raced across the local list — Snowy Owl at RPI! I recognized the location right away. All the times I’d driven my kids to classes there finally paid off! I decided to bail from the count, and the count followed me across the river to Troy where right where he was supposed to be was a beautiful immature male Snowy Owl.

I love my new camera.

I love my new camera.

He gazed around looking sleepy. Cars entered and exited the parking lot, birders gathered and oooohed and gazed. The only thing that caught his interest was a vehicle squeaking like a tremendous rodent. For that, he opened his eyes.

Until a pigeon darted by. He followed the bird’s flight, turning his head nearly 90 degrees.


Then he turned around…


… and did what birds usually do when planning a hasty takeoff. (No, I did not take a picture of that.) And in a heartbeat, too quickly for me to follow with the camera, he took off.


Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Christmas Bird Count, Field trip, OMG bird | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Birds, possessive.

We had some unpleasant weather last winter: snow, followed by sleet and freezing rain. We escaped the very worst, only getting 1/4″ of ice rather than the inch just 20 miles away, but it had an unexpected effect. I made sure to put out lots of high-energy food the next morning and the birds were out in good number, but their behavior seemed odd. Sluggish and labored. Then I saw these birds.

Another Titmouse had a large tuft of down pulled out on its shoulder, while Juncos hopped beneath the feeders dragging their tails in the snow. One Blue Jay’s crest was so full of ice pellets it flopped forward and sideways. I didn’t recognise the Carolina Wren for a moment — her jaunty tail was hanging straight down with the weight of ice. Were they caught while foraging for food, or were they trapped in their roosts, feathers frozen to branches?

Then a thaw and a day of icefall, chandelier prisms tinkling everywhere. The birds seemed to regain their composure and appetite. All the regular customers were back.

Except one.

I realized I hadn’t seen my Carolina Wren in two days, when she’d been a daily visitor almost all winter… Wait. My wren? How often I speak of my birds, my frogs, taking ownership of free creatures. Providing supplemental food, however thoughtfully purchased and prepared, doesn’t create a quid pro quo. They use the habitat we create, the plants we allow to overgrow in thickets, but they don’t need it specifically here in my yard. The chickadees and titmice certainly recognise me as a source of food (and nest material) (sometimes not even waiting for it to be offered).

They owe me nothing, of course. Whatever I do to make my yard hospitable is for my own benefit far more than theirs. The debt is all on my side for the joy their quick brilliant lives bring to me

I have an online friend who’s a falconer. He tells amazing stories about working with many different raptors and owls, the partnership between man and hawk and hound. The difference, he says, is the lack of the hierarchal pack relationship he shares with his dogs — his birds are, in effect, independent at-will workers, hunting for their own purpose, not under orders or out of love. You must never mistake the interaction for love: at best, it’s cooperation, at worst it’s ‘To hell with you,’, and the bird is gone.

I don’t know much about parrots — I suppose they might be different: intelligent, long-lived, and very social, perhaps they consider us pitiful flightless flock-mates.

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Feeder birds, Why? | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Birds of March

A cumulative list for the month. Between now and April the numbers should climb steeply, and by May — whooee! But today we have an April Fool’s light snow, and you might think we’re back in February again until you notice the snow is sticking only to the grass, the Killdeer are displaying, the pond is half clear of ice, and the goldfinches are motley gold and grey, almost into their sun-bright plumage. “Cheer, cheer!” the  cardinals call. “Be of good cheer.”

Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-winged Blackbird, Tufted Titmouse, Dark-eyed Junco, Common Redpoll, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, American Crow, European Starling, Common Grackle, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, Canada Goose, Snow Goose, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow, House Finch, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, Great Blue Heron, American Woodcock, Wood Duck, Fox Sparrow, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Merganser, Ruffed Grouse, Green-winged Teal, Fish Crow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Shrike, American Wigeon, Black Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Pintail Duck, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck.

55 species, compared to 38 for Jan/Feb combined. Just a little longer…

Categories: Month count, Species count | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Snow on the roof…

… not just a human problem.



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In the doldrums

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I’m still here! Despite snow, and ice, and more snow, and -22°F, and ice, and more snow, and more snow …

Hmmph. Excuse me while I calm down a bit.

We haven’t had the astonishing totals downstate has had, but the white (or clear) stuff has come down at least twice a week since Christmas.  The piles along the driveway are shoulder-high and it’s getting hard to toss the snow that far, so the parkable area is narrowing.

I’m slacking off just a bit on the bird feeding, sticking mainly to the ones closest to the house. I feel like the Fellowship climbing Caradhras as I plow through thigh-deep snow. At  least the birds seem grateful. We regularly get mixed finch flocks of 30 or more swarming the thistle feeder. Seven cardinals showed up at one time.  A pair each of flickers and Red-bellied woodpeckers have been visiting, along with innumerable Downies and Hairies. Sparrows, juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, all the usual suspects are waiting for me every morning. So why do I say it’s the doldrums?

‘The usual suspects.’ That’s the problem. Even if I go looking, I’m lucky to see 25 species in a whole day. And it’s the same 25 I see all week. And all month. And pretty much until the end of March, at the earliest. To see any variety, I have to travel. For example, the CBC at Jamaica Bay NWR, my old birding ground, had 71 species and over 13000 birds in their count alone, attesting to the power of open water. Which we ain’t got much of around here. I long for a Red-winged Blackbird.

Yet the sight of these tiny balls of energy going about their active lives in the very heart of winter is enough to raise my spirits. I know feeding them makes no difference to the survival of the species, but I like to think we — the individual birds-of-my-yard and I — have a relationship of sorts. That when I step off my porch, arms full and losing a boot in an unexpected mound, the Chickadee who lights chattering just above me is acknowledging my presence, and my presents.

Or more likely, “Jeez, about time you got here.”

"The service here has really gone downhill."


Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Usual suspects | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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