Monday, February 24, 2020

Deep Winter

January and February this year have brought a few new discoveries in our yard and woods, but mostly this has been a time of familiar sights amid snowy landscapes and gradually lengthening days. I love being in a place long enough to build a sense of the familiar, to be able to feel that, yes, this is what winter is like here. And then when new creatures show up, or when I see something familiar in a new way, there's a basis for comparison -- it's nice, and quite different from a couple of winters ago when everything in this place was brand new to me.

I finally set up the trail camera that I bought about a year ago, and I've been moving it among a few spots in our woods and at the edge of the meadow. Even in just the past two months, this trail camera has already given us a greatly expanded view of our wildlife neighbors, especially carnivores who I've only rarely glimpsed before now. Here's a collection of some of my favorite videos from the trail camera so far: a young male White-tailed Deer in the snowy woods, a Coyote loping along our woods trail, a Gray Fox moving more cautiously down the same trail, a Gray Fox in the meadow (this spot turned out to be part of a particularly frequent fox trail), and what I'm pretty sure is a Red Fox passing through the meadow carrying a captured meal.

On January 7, a group of Black-capped Chickadees let me stand close by while they foraged in a fallen sumac tree:

I will always take the opportunity to hang out with chickadees. This picture looks like it's sideways, but the chickadee was just working at an angle:

A storm on February 7 left a thick layer of ice on everything. The Silver Maple buds in our front yard turned into glass-like globes:

On February 9, the ice had only just started to melt, and shockingly bright sunlight made all the trees sparkle with multi-colored lights -- I couldn't quite get my camera to capture the effect, but this photo at least gives an idea:

On February 15, an American Goldfinch posed on snow-covered fir branches:

The edge of the meadow hosted an impressive network of rabbit tracks (this is the area where the trail camera saw so many foxes go by -- watch out, bunnies):

And I admired the now mostly ice-free Silver Maple buds against a blue sky:

Another perfectly blue sky on February 22 made a striking backdrop for the bare Virginia-Creeper-covered trees at the edge of the woods:

And the sunlight lit up a few remaining seeds dangling from a nearby Basswood tree:

The more I think about it, I think February may be one of my favorite months, for its combination of snow and lengthening days. I love sunny, crisp, blue-sky February days, with a good blanket of white snow on the ground.... And February holds the first, tiniest hints of spring. In the past few days, cardinals have started singing in our yard, and a pair of bluebirds have stopped by to check out our nest boxes. I'm clearly not the only one starting to think about spring. Winter is long, but spring will come. And in the meantime, there's still the rest of February to enjoy!