The Kickapoo Valley landscapes can be seen as rather dull or drab in December, especially if there's no snow cover. I always ask people to slow down, like the season does, and take a closer look at the beauty that remains. The bright colors of summer are long gone, but some of the autumn hues still linger. The leafless dark statues of the trees are no longer lush and colorful, but they stand out like works of art against the sky. The different colors that can be seen in the marshes along the river are worth taking a closer look at. The brown stems of Goldenrod and Bergamot poke up through the beige Canary grass and yellow/brown cattails. Scores of soft, earthly tones all seem to melt together in a pleasing blend of color.
A single bird on a high line at this time of the year is likely to be a Kestrel. All the other "wire sitters" have headed south—Blackbirds, Grackles, Robins and Meadowlarks are all gone. The hardy little Kestrel is one of the few that remain here in the winter. If you see one along a country road, try to take a second glance. Then maybe you can see that he really does look like a miniature Peregrine falcon. The Kestrel may be the smallest of the North American falcons, but still has the look and stature of his larger cousins.
It's not quite so obvious in the winter months, but there is still so much to see. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and all things beautiful deserve a closer look.
I got lucky Thursday morning at sunrise, when I glanced out the window. At first, there was nothing out of place, but as I gazed over the meadow south of the house, I noticed a large brown bump in the branches of an old apple tree. The spotting scope is always ready, and all I had to do was focus in on this bump a mere 100 yards away. A beautiful Barred owl stared right back at me with big ebony eyes, making me wonder who was watching "hoo." The subtle pastel colors of the early morning sky provided a backdrop as he patiently watched the tall grass below, looking for the stirring of a meadow vole. The lush, summer foliage is gone, and frost has taken the colorful leaves and flowers, but there's still a whole world of beauty to see if we just slow down long enough to take a second look and let it sink in.
There was a yellow glow around the moon Friday night. Often that means that there will be some kind of moisture coming within the next 48 hours. Sure enough, it started to snow around 10 o'clock the next morning, and kept it up the rest of the day and most of Saturday night. "Old man" winter really laid a veil of white over the land.
While shoveling a path to the wood pile, I noticed the birds were extra busy at the feeders nearby. They are the first ones I take care of after a snow fall. After the snow has been cleared from the feeders, I fill them and get out of the way, so the hungry birds can eat in peace. Their bright colors now seem even brighter against the contrast of white snow.
I counted 9 cardinals with ease, as they stuck out like red apples on the snow-covered branches. I leaned on my shovel and listened to the sounds of a single Bluebird, as he sang from the Cedar trees behind the house. I'm always happy to hear a Bluebird, even after a December snowfall. Bluebirds are no longer just summer birds here—in the past 4 years, I've seen them in the Kickapoo Valley every month of the year. They never come to the bird feeders, but I still get a glimpse of them or hear their songs from time to time.
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