Sunday, December 31, 2023

Fall and Early Winter, 2023

Here's one more post wrapping up sights around our property in 2023! These past few months have been decently busy, including a good amount of traveling (sights from which I hope to share in a blog post sometime soon). But there were also plenty of interesting goings-on in our yard, meadow, and woods during this time, including our first ever glimpse of a Black Bear on the evening of November 5! We heard a strange clanging sound outside, and we turned on the floodlight to see a bear bending the bird feeder pole to the ground! The bear ran off quickly, so I don't have any pictures to share from that encounter, but yeah, now we can definitely add Black Bear to our list of yard mammals. Here's a bunch of other sights that do come with pictures, starting back in early September.

On September 4, I was admiring the array of colorful wildflowers on a slope near one of our sheds -- I didn't plant or maintain any of this, so I'm especially impressed with these balanced swathes of blooming goldenrod, Spotted Jewelweed, and a wild sunflower that I'm pretty sure is Thin-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus):

Here's a closer view on September 8 of one of these brilliant sunflower blooms:

And here's a Spotted Jewelweed flower with a visiting bee, who accessed this flower by crawling behind that large lower lip:

Also in the above picture are the jewelweed's seedpods -- touching those pods and deploying their exploding mechanisms is one of my great joys of the summer and fall. :)

On September 11, this awkwardly patchy Gray Catbird was foraging for Pokeweed berries:

And another Gray Catbird was gulping down Gray Dogwood berries on September 23:

I'm not sure who eats these brilliant red Jack-in-the-Pulpit berries -- this big cluster was in the woods on September 23:

This juvenile Cedar Waxwing on October 1, though, was also visiting our yard to eat Pokeweed berries:

I'm really grateful that our property came with such an ample native berry supply in the summer and fall, to keep the birds hanging around!

By October 1, the Virginia Creeper vines that cover many of the Black Cherry trees on the edge of our woods had become a brilliant red -- this is one of my favorite sights here in early fall, and I can't help sharing a couple of pictures:

I love how the Virginia Creeper's leaves make a solid red core around these upper branches, and the Black Cherry's own leaves make a still-green cloud around that:

A little further along the meadow's edge on October 1, golden Wild Grape leaves intertwined with sumac leaves that revealed their silvery undersides in the wind -- so many festive colors:

We put up a large bat box in our yard in 2020, and toward the end of the summer this year we finally saw our first small signs of some visiting bats! By October 5, there was a definite smattering of droppings on the ground around the bat box's pole -- certainly not enough to indicate a colony, but I guess we had a few bats staying with us this year:

October 17 was a great day for some bird portraits in the afternoon fall sun. This Tufted Titmouse gave me a wonderfully close view as it perched on our deck railing:

And then the same or another titmouse looked especially handsome against a backdrop of late-fall meadow colors:

Likewise, if not more so, for this gorgeous Blue Jay:

I was happy to get some brief glimpses of the Ruby-crowned Kinglets that were moving through the yard:

This picture even includes a tiny bit of this bird's usually hidden ruby crown:

On the night of October 28, I tried for a picture of the full moon (not my usual type of subject!), and I was pleasantly surprised at how well this worked out -- wow, the moon is amazing:

Apparently I took very few pictures in November! We had our first sticking snow on November 1 (only a day after our first frost), and I was amazed that the Coral Honeysuckle kept blooming late enough into the year to have its flowers covered with snow:

And here's a Black-capped Chickadee checking out our roof on November 4:

On the afternoon of December 4, a fantastic rainbow appeared over our meadow:

On December 12, this Dark-eyed Junco let me approach fairly close, as long as it stayed mostly hidden in its tangle of branches and vines:

A Pileated Woodpecker came to our suet feeder for a few days in December, which was an unusual and wonderful treat. Here's this too-big bird on December 14:

And again on December 15 -- I love those pointy tail feathers (sorry about the weird coloring in these pictures; the woodpecker insisted on visiting in the morning during very poor light, and I got some strange effects when I lightened and processed these pictures):

For a size comparison, here's a Downy Woodpecker on the same feeder on December 20:

While I walked around outside on December 20, I kept seeing Downy Woodpeckers all over the place, actually. I guess this was a good day for these littlest (and cutest) of our woodpeckers! This Downy Woodpecker was working on our Shagbark Hickory tree:

Another Downy Woodpecker was hammering into the round galls on goldenrod stems in the meadow, getting at the larvae inside:

What a cool foraging strategy -- go get that bug, little woodpecker:

In the woods, Downy Woodpeckers were working over various dead trees, stark black-and-white creatures on multicolored wooden surfaces:

Also on December 20 (what an active day!), I got to see this White-breasted Nuthatch foraging among bark crevices in the woods:

This Black-capped Chickadee showing its beautifully patterned back and wings:

And this Dark-eyed Junco perched among the Redbud tree's bare branches:

And now 2023 is coming to a close, and that means a whole new year is next! I'm excited to see what sights 2024 brings, both familiar and new.


  1. Thank you for sharing those excellent photos, Elizabeth. Didn't know that jewelweed seedpods explode when touched so will give mine a go next summer.

    1. When I was a kid, we called jewelweed "touch-me-not." The best is finding the biggest, plumpest seedpods, which explode with a slight nudge. Smaller seedpods take more of a squeeze to explode, but that's always fun, too. Enjoy!

  2. So enjoy your blogs. Happy New Year.

  3. Sandi Meyers here

    1. Thank you, Sandi! Happy New Year to you as well.