Like much of the Southeast, we got snow this week. My non-expert estimation is 3 inches. It was a little hard to tell due to wind blowing the snow around. The snow was a welcome break in a way, a soft cushion over the frozen deep cuppy footing. Now that it's melting though, oy. We walked the horses are the loop that goes to the creek -- it's been too wet to ride for weeks -- and poor Prince was slipping as though he was walking on ice. I kept having to caution DH to slow down, and needless to say we won't be walking down there again any time soon.
You can see all of the tracks of the little birds looking for food in the snow. There have been tons of song and white throated sparrows hanging around the house this winter (the song sparrows have been singing ever since they arrived this fall), as well as juncos, cardinals, goldfinches and a hermit thrush.
A young smooth sumac waiting to be planted out. The cabbage and lettuce that we started in fall (in the big multi-colored buckets to the right) are long gone with temps down to single digits on more than one occasion.
The cats love their heating pads. There's even a heating pad under the red blanket. The cats are bookends on either side when I sit on the couch in the evening. Prissy has even been spending most of the day inside. She despises the cold.
One nice thing about winter is how much easier it is to see the birds. When I bother to look up (I tend to look at the ground when walking, and actually look around more when I am working) I usually see something interesting. A pileated woodpecker swooping low to the ground through the woods near the slough at the end of the shelter paddock. There are always birds at the slough, attracted by the fresh running water. A phoebe, a hermit thrush, a male bluebird, his feather the color of the sky intensified, or a whole flock of a half a dozen to a dozen bluebirds.
The red-shouldered hawks would be very noticeable anyway, leaves on the trees or no. Courtship starts in January, and involves a lot of calling to each other and flying around together, circling and diving, and continues until they start nest building in March. The past few years a pair of red shoulders built a nest just inside the woodline that runs from the old up to the current house site, and for the past two years have used the same nest about a hundred feet inside the woods almost directly west of the house. I have watched them carry prey to the nest multiples times a day, first the male feeding both the female and the babies and then both feeding the babies. I could hear the babies whenever a parent landed on the nest with prey, usually a hapless frog or snake which the parent carried in its talons or beak. The parents are very local while raising the young, calling to keep tabs of each other, and especially at the nest after bringing food, a "hey I just fed the kids". This past week I was dumping the wheelbarrow at the manure pile and heard a red shoulder calling very nearby; it was on a pine tree branch 15-20 above ground and almost directly overhead. I heard another calling in the distance; soon it landed on the branch next to the other one. The first one took off immediately, clearly "come hither", followed by "catch me if you can". A couple of days later I was walking the horses to the pasture and looked up to see a red shoulder looking down at me looking up at him (or her). lol I see the red shoulders just about every day except for summer and early fall when they go with their nestlings over to the neighbor's farm.
In winter I see other hawks too that overwinter but don't breed here: sharp-shinned, Cooper's, and Northern harriers, typically as they fly low from one patch of woods to another. The sharp shins and Cooper's (I believe I have seen both species this winter, since one individual was so large) are recognizable by their short rounded wings and long slim tail, the harrier by its long slender wings and tail and white rump.