Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday afternoon (about 2:00) the rain started.  And it rained.  Fat rain.  Heavy rain.  Rain that went SPLAT and left everything very wet.

Within an hour it had turned to sleet and ice pellets.

An hour later, it was big, fat, heavy snowflakes - they, too, would've gone SPLAT if they could've.

When I got home about 5:00, it was a winter wonderland.  I let the dog out to find icicles everywhere.

The birds were feeding like mad...right up until about 6:00 PM.  If it was still light enough to see, they were going to eat.  They knew they were in for a rough night.

This morning I was hesitant to get up.  The radio said all the area schools closed.  Winter weather warnings were still being broadcast.  But when I looked out across the yard, I could still see the tops of the grass clumps, so we couldn't have gotten too much snow.

Feeders were now white instead of strictly icy - and the air was mild.

But everything was covered with heavy, wet snow.  Lovely, but rough on branches.

Bless my neighbor for plowing me out.  Look at those clumps of snow - Very heavy, Very wet.  I was Very glad I didn't have to shovel it.  I see some gratitude baking in my near future.

Plowing here is much different than it was in Newcomb.  I take my hat off to the guys in Newcomb who really did keep the roads and streets snow- and ice-free.  Admittedly, they didn't have but the smallest fraction of roads to plow that we have here, but they did a bang up job...even removing piles from the ends of driveways! 

As you can see, the main drag (paved road) was plowed, but the side road (dirt) to the left was not.

I'm glad I live on the corner and my driveway connects to the paved road.  As you can see, it was rough going along this road.  And there is a limb down from the one pine tree on my property.

While I took the time to do my civic duty and drag the limb off the road, Toby decided to continue his walk all by himself!  Thank goodness there was no traffic (or deer).

The young pines down the road just looked exhausted after a night of rough weather.

The heavy rains of the day before left significant (now frozen) puddles in the fields.  We are lucky roads weren't flooded.

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a snowman this morning...even if all I had time for was a very small one.  Perfect snowman snow doesn't come around every day.

I was on the road to work about 15 minutes later, and the snow was already warming up and dropping from trees and utility lines.  What a crazy winter this has been.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Gosh, I write nothing for weeks on end, and suddenly I have three posts in one day!

A couple weeks ago I posted about a red-bellied woodpecker that I saw in a cavity down the road from my house.  Well, it's been there every single morning Toby and I have gone out for our walk.  This morning I made a point of bringing my camera and the big lens.  I should've brought the tripod along as well, for I have a hard time holding the camera steady with that lens, but all things considered, these didn't come out too badly.

I give you my neighbor, the red-bellied woodpecker:

As you can see, he has some "stuff" in his beak.  It could be that he is excavating the hole - he's got stuff he's spitting out almost every time I see him.  But, as speculated before, it could be he's just roosting in this cavity - they do that.

And here you can see both the upper story door as well as the lower story door.  Is this indeed a duplex, or are there two holes into the same cavity?  Without a Treetop Peeper (camera on a pole), a ladder or climbing spikes, I will never know the answer.

A Little Excitement

I was getting ready to leave work early on Saturday, and while standing in front of our Bird TV window, I saw a small dark body dash under the brush pile on the far side of the bird feeding area.  My first thought was "marten!" and I quickly dismissed it because I am no longer in the Adirondacks.  We don't have martens here, and in truth it was too small and too dark for a marten.  My mind decided it was a red squirrel and it moved on.

A couple minutes later I was still standing there, chatting with our weekend staff, when IT came dashing out of the brush pile, making a beeline to the bird feeders.  "Weasel!"

"Holly!  It's a weasel!  Grab my camera, grab my's in the bag next to the counter...just bring the bag!"

Holly rushed over with the bag, and I grabbed the camera.  Here is what unfolded.

The "weasel" zipped under the birch log and was watching the scene.  Can you see it below?

Three cheers for computers and digital photography - we can zoom in and enhance the image.  There it is.'s not just a weasel, it's a mink!  Note the dark fur and the white chin patch.

Again, it disappeared, only to pop up at the end of the birch log.  It was on a mission. 

 Quick as a flash, it disappeared again.

"It's caught a chipmunk!" Holly exclaimed.

"Where it is?" I demanded, for it was nowhere to be seen. 

"It went behind that pile of sticks and it's caught a chipmunk!"  Holly was distraught - she likes the chipmunks.  But how she could tell it had caught one was beyond me...we couldn't see a thing!

But sure enough, within a minute it reappeared behind the snowy pile of sticks with a chipmunk in its mouth:

A bit of a struggle ensued next to the tree:

 And about a minute later the mink took off again, chipmunk in mouth.

It zipped into the brush pile and Holly and I let out our breath.  Wow.  How cool was that?!?!

We waited and watched for a while, but we knew that now that the mink had a nice plump chippie in its hide-away, it wasn't very likely to reappear any time soon.  So, I decided to go out and see what tracks and trails were left behind, and if I could reconstruct the story.

Here is the pile of stick at which the chippie was snagged.  The snow was not conducive to taking good tracks - there really wasn't much to see.

The first sign that anything untoward had happened was a single drop of blood on top of the birch log.

 Behind the log was a little more blood and signs of a scuffle.  The chippie was putting up a fight.
Here was where the mink made its mad dash back to the brush pile with its meal.


It looked like there were multiple entry/exit holes around the pile - probably more than the mink are using the pile for winter housing.  But droplets of blood by one small entry were a give away.

RIP, chipmunk. (Or should we say RIM?)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Frosty Mornings

Earlier this week we woke one morning to a very heavy fog.  The sun was shining, lifting the fog, but it left its touch on all the plants in the form of some amazing frost crystals.  Sadly, I didn't have my camera that day, so this morning when I saw some nice frost while out filling the bird feeders before going to work, I made sure to take the camera along when Toby and I went for our walk.

You'd think that with all the lack of snow this year, that the deer wouldn't have any problem finding food.  Well, apparently the ornamental cedars in front of the house made the menu this year, for they have stripped at least this one nearly bare!  So much for the presence of a dog being a deterrent!

The early morning light (here the sun doesn't put in an appearance much before 7:30/8:00) makes everything look lovely. 

For years I have tried and tried to capture the sparkling glitter of the morning sun on ice crystals without any success.  This field was full of flashes of light, yet the camera fails to reproduce them.  

Shadows, on the other hand, come out quite well.  

It's been so long since I've done frost photography that I forgot that I'm better off with the macro lens than the regular lens.  Oh well - we make do with what we have!

When I first approached this nest box, a male house sparrow was perched on top and singing his heart out.  Hm...already setting up his territory?  This year I have vowed to try to do in the house sparrows on my property so the bluebirds can use the boxes I put up for them.  "They" say that all you have to eliminate is the male...once he is gone, the houses he guards will be available for the bluebirds.   We'll see how that goes.

All too soon it was time to head to work.  Maybe this weekend (Sunday/Monday for me) will provide some more wintery photo opportunities.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Seen but no Proof

Tuesday, while we were enjoying lunch at work in front of Bird TV, we watched a chipmunk scamper around the pond, past the dripper, under the log and disappear around the building.  A chipmunk in early Feb, when the temps were in the 20s?  Very odd...very odd indeed.

This morning, while walking the dog, I heard the call of a red-bellied woodpecker.  I could here it, but not see it.  While T was taking a pitstop, I looked around and saw a snag among the roadside trees.  At the very tippy top was a perfectly round hole.  Hm, thought I.  I wonder if the bird is in there.

Moments later, there was a flash of red, the rattling call, and then it was gone.  Another flash of red, below the hole I spotted, and it too disappeared.

It turns out, there was/is a second hole maybe eight inches below the first one I spotted, and the woodpecker was in there.  Every few seconds it poked its head out and "spit out" debris, and sometimes it would call.  Could it be housekeeping, prepping a potential nest sight for this spring's brood of eggs?  Or is it just tidying up the detritus that collects from living in the hole during the winter?

Do woodpeckers roost in cavities when they don't have a nest and aren't raising young?  I would think so...don't really see them as perch-on-a-branch-at-night birds.  But, spring isn't too far away now, so maybe this bird is just getting ready.