Wednesday, July 19, 2023

January-April, 2023

Oh look! Somehow it's been another half-a-year since I last posted sightings from around our property on this blog. :) I seem to be falling into a pattern of gathering pictures on my computer for months and then sharing these highlights in bursts -- but ah well, better late than never! It's time to start catching up with 2023!

The first few months of this year were especially busy, and I'm sure I missed a lot of the goings-on in our yard, meadow, and woods (sadly). But even so, I got to see many cool things, and I've had a lot of fun getting to know my brand new camera (thank you, family, for the Christmas gift!). My old, much-loved, 10+ year old DSLR camera simply wasn't working very well anymore, and it was time for an upgrade. So I've been playing around with this new toy, learning some new things, and so enjoying having a fully functional camera again.

In this post, I'll share some highlights from winter and early spring -- January through April -- and then I'll have much more to share from the rest of spring and early summer in later posts. Here we go!

On January 8, I wandered through our meadow and woods, admiring the sunny blue sky and snow-free ground. Most of this year's winter was quite mild; it's strange to see our meadow in January without snow:

In the woods, I was having too much fun taking pictures of the jungle of moss on this fallen log:

I spent some time figuring out how up-close I could get to another patch of moss with my new camera (much closer than my old camera could go!) -- I also love the tiny ice crystals in this next picture, showing that yes, it is really winter:

We did have some snow in January, although not a lot. Here's a crisp wintry view of the hills across the valley from our house on January 16:

This male Downy Woodpecker was in the apple tree outside our window during a light but driving snowfall on January 13, and I can't resist sharing this picture of this cute little bird with his heart-shaped cap:

On February 12, without snow on the ground in which to build their usual network of tunnels, this Meadow Vole was foraging around a wood pile, quite exposed. Be careful, little vole:

Nearby, I was surprised to see a spider out and about in the sunshine, climbing on a peach tree twig (I think this is some sort of Long-jawed Orbweaver, genus Tetragnatha):

There usually isn't anything blooming here in February, but with all the mild weather and lack of snow, our Snowdrops bloomed on February 16, a good three weeks earlier than I'd seen these flowers bloom before, in the six years we've lived in this house.

And although they're not actually flowers, I also loved seeing the little flower-like bracts on the American Witch Hazel shrub in our front yard; the bracts are left over from last year's blossoms, and they'll host the expanding seed pods in the coming months. Here's a picture of these bracts from February 12:

On March 5, I spent some time admiring some of the birds hanging out in our yard. I love how the underside of this Mourning Dove's tail seems to glow:

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker and Pileated Woodpecker sat in the same tree across the meadow from our house for several minutes, preening and apparently keeping watch over the territory (this tree was sooo far away from me -- yay, camera!):

A male House Finch looked handsome in the branches of a fir tree in our yard:

And here's another (or the same?) male Downy Woodpecker in the apple tree again, this time without a window pane between us:

On March 12, a few inches of puffy wet snow made a pretty frame for this American Goldfinch:

And some mammal's tracks led the way through the pristine snow into our woods trail:

Speaking of mammals in the woods, here's a selection of mammal sightings from our trail camera in February and March; the camera was watching a spot just a little further down the path in the picture above. This video includes six brief clips, featuring a Gray Fox carrying an unknown object (something hard? a bone?), our very first Fisher recorded on our property, a Raccoon, an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, a White-tailed Deer, and a Red Fox with a mouthful of voles:


It's so amazing to be able to see these creatures as they passed through our woods!

On March 26, our American Hazelnut shrubs were blossoming, with tiny female flowers:

And dangling male flowers:

That evening, as it was starting to get dark, this fancy male Dark-eyed Junco spent some time displaying right at eye-level in the blooming Silver Maple in front of our house:

What a puffy, handsome fellow!


A burst of warm weather in April meant that a lot of the early spring flowers bloomed and faded quickly, and I missed many of them this year. Fortunately, I was at least able to grab a view of these Bloodroot flowers at their very brief peak, since they grow in our front yard (next to emerging Virginia Bluebell buds):

And I was very happy to get to see our one Red Trillium blossoming in the woods on April 19:

April was also the time when our neighborhood birds started building nests and laying eggs. This is the second year in a row when the Eastern Phoebes declined to build a nest in their traditional (and as far as I've seen, always successful) spot over our front door, so I suppose that time has finished. Instead, they nested in our old shed again, where they were parasitized by Brown Cowbirds. The phoebe's April nesting attempt failed -- they actually removed the cowbird egg, but then they didn't continue on with that nest.

In happier April bird-nesting news, this was the first year since we put up bluebird boxes in 2018 that we've actually had an Eastern Bluebird family come and stay! (A pair of bluebirds made a brief attempt in 2019, but they disappeared after they laid one egg.) It's been so wonderful to have bluebirds as a common fixture in our yard this year -- usually they're only infrequent passers-through here. I don't have any pictures of the bluebird family from April, but don't worry, I'll have plenty of pictures of them in the next posts.

On April 19, I was surprised to see a Black-capped Chickadee checking out the nest box containing the fully-constructed bluebird nest (the first egg appeared the very next day):

The chickadee even went inside the box to take a look around, but it left again quickly:

Sorry, chickadee, this spot is taken.

And that's it for 2023 up through April! I've got lots more to share from spring and summer so far this year, so more will be coming later. :)