Sunday, February 2, 2014

Winter Wonderland


Like much of the Southeast, we got some 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.

Our winter wonderland:





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 mult-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 always 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.



14 comments:

  1. Love your pictures of your winter wonderland! We didn't get ant snow here in north MS :( The snow really brings the birds in close. That's what I like!

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  2. The snow is pretty when it is fresh.

    May spring bring you many blooms.

    FlowerLady

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  3. Your winter wonderland is lovely! Ours has been gone for a couple of days now, and today the temp went up into the 70s! It is raining, however, so there was little chance to enjoy it. I am eager for spring. The birds are very active. We have nesting Cooper's hawks, and they are very vocal.

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  4. Your pictures are lovely! You have a little more snow on the ground than we have. I can't wait to see your garden come alive with spring though. - Carla

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  5. The snow sure looks pretty, but temperatures in the single digets? Brrr... Heating pads for the cats? Now that is new to me, but how nice you take such good care of them. I loved to read your detailed observations of the birds and hawks. It is rare that people pay so much attention to nature. Wishing you a lovely February! Warm regards,
    Christina

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  6. I love your winter wonderland Sweetbay. We did not have one wintery day overhere helas! One storm after the other and lot's of rainy days. I hope spring will come in early this year.
    Have a wonderful day and stay warm.

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  7. Beautiful photos of your winter wonderland and the cats they look so sweet on their heating pads, spoiled pussycats, haha.

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  8. You got a bit more snow than we did (an inch and that is being generous). Your photos are beautiful! I have been seeing a red-shouldered hawk hanging around our garden a lot lately. I didn't know they started courting in January...I hope they nest somewhere close by! I do also notice that the crows will chase the hawks...makes me mad but there isn't much I can do to prevent that.

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  9. I'm so impressed with your knowledge of the hawks, all of which kind of look the same to me. The best thing about winter is indeed the bird watching, which as you say is so much easier when there are no leaves on the trees. My favorite winter bird is the Ruby Crowned Kinglet, which likes to hang out in the hollies near my window. And I think I saw a Golden Crowned Kinglet the other day. Both are adorable.

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    1. I often see Ruby-Crowned Kinglets here, and very occasionally a Golden-Crowned Kinglet. They *are* adorable! I saw one the other day foraging right by the path's edge as I was leading the horses past and it was so cute!

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  10. Your photos are lovely--there's something about snow that creates such beautiful imagery. I'm not quite so enthralled by it anymore, though--we're predicted to get another 9 inches by tomorrow morning. The birds are definitely a highlight this time of year--for us, it's the red-tailed hawk that is a common sight, circling overhead looking for unsuspecting prey.

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  11. Hi Sweet Bay! Feels like forever since I visited last (and it has been a long while.) So surprising to see snow on your blog ~ I don't really remember that before? I'm with your cat Prissy ~ not a fan of the cold. Maybe I need a heating pad??? :)
    Your apricot blooms in the previous post are beautiful. Of course it will be weeks before I can photograph outdoor blooms so that makes yours all the more precious. Lucky you to have the red shoulder hawks nesting nearby so consistently. Bird watching is bringing me joy this winter too.
    Thank you also for the kind comment. Although I'm only just learning about alcoholism, it does seem like the treatment has a long way to go to get a higher success rate...

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  12. With all the birds, your garden is a great place to be in even in winter. Thanks for the pretty snow pictures, I haven't seen snow in years :(

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  13. I always find hawks to be such magnificent birds. Snow down south made the news here. It seems that everyone is having quite the winter this year. We keep being hit by one storm after another. The pile of snow at the end of the driveway is taller than I am! Unlike your cats, the dogs are only too happy to be outdoors. There are always squirrels to be chased from the bird feeders!

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