I knew, when I left my apartment to drive to Naugatuck State Forest this morning, that it would be a cold walk. My first big tip-off came last night, when the falling raindrops turned suspiciously thick and sludgy. My suspicions were confirmed this morning, when I had to scrape ice off of my windshield for the first time this year, and then when I saw several cars (commuters, I presume) driving around with an inch or two of snow (real snow!) on their roofs. Winter, it seems, is on its way!
When I arrived at the woods, it wasn't just cold -- it was frozen. Not the lakes (that will come later), but leaves, plants, and everything else:
Mmm, pretty. Frost makes even common plants -- like the plantains, clover, and wild carrots in the picture above -- seem extraordinary, like they're dressed up for a special occasion. And how cute are the strawberry leaves in this next picture, all frosted and nestled in a bed of dry grass?
Frozen it may have been, but the animals didn't seem to mind. Birds were chittering and flying around everywhere, and there were plenty of creatures to see.
This female Hairy Woodpecker* was hard at work excavating a large hole in a fantastically fungus-covered tree:
Update 12/22/11: I've changed my mind, and I'm fairly convinced now that this is a Downy Woodpecker. I've seen some more Hairy Woodpeckers since I took this picture, and they do seem to be much bigger and with more strikingly large beaks and heads than this girl. So... Downy it is -- sorry for the confusion! (Either way, I still think the pictures are cool.)
Better check to see if the hole is big enough yet! (And I wonder what she will use it for.)
A pair of Hermit Thrushes was foraging for food among the mud and fallen leaves, and this one seems to have found something:
Something delicious, I hope?
This funky little bird is a Brown Creeper:
A little creeper, just creeping along. This bird is really good at climbing vertically up tree trunks, but I'm not actually sure that it can go downwards at all -- Brown Creepers generally creep up a tree for a little while, looking for tasty bugs in the bark, and then they fly down to the base of the next tree and start climbing up again. I think these birds are super cool, and I didn't even know they existed until I started visiting this forest about a year ago. And they're pretty good at the camouflage thing, too:
Other sights from today's walk included a flock of kinglets (Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned) that seemed to follow me wherever I went, and a teeny Red Squirrel chasing a Gray Squirrel easily twice its size. Hooray for activity, and hooray for living things!
*I've been getting much more confident recently about distinguishing between Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers -- these two species look very similar, especially when they're not sitting side by side -- but this picture had me second-guessing myself for a little while. This bird's beak looks small for a Hairy Woodpecker, but big for a Downy. So that's confusing. However, I don't see any black marks on this bird's outer tail feathers, and I remember it being fairly large in size, both of which point to Hairy Woodpecker. So that's my identification, at least for now. If anyone wants to correct me, feel free to do so!