After weeks of below freezing temperatures, the thaw came a couple days ago. There hasn't been a whole lotta sunshine but it got up around 30 degrees. That seems to be the magic number for the Opossum who had been sleeping in his den under a woodpile. The boards were covered over by eight inches of snow and there's a new possum sized hole in the snow, where he dug his way out. I thought it curious that there were tracks coming out but none going back in the hole. He was awake and hungry and following his nose to anything edible.
Perched high in a cottonwood tree, a large dark Rough-legged hawk gazes out over the open grassland. They are a winter visitor, making their homes on Canada's northern grasslands and tundra.
They appear to be as large as a Red-tailed hawk (commonly seen here) but their plumage is different. Their feathers may be nearly all black or nearly all white. A Rough-leg's feet seem to be too small for their bodies but big strong feet aren't necessary where they live. Small quick feet are better for catching voles and lemmings. The Rough-leg is a master at hovering in place, high above the grass, watching for a vole to scurry out in sight. Then folding his large wings, he drops straight to his prey. Anytime you can watch a hawk while they are hunting is a real treat, but the way the Rough-legged hawk hunts is an extra treat to watch.
The eagles in the area are taking advantage of the abundance of road-killed deer in the area. Eagles are good scavengers and I couldn't think of a better way for the deer to be recycled. I've been dragging the deer off a few yards away from the road where the eagles can eat safely away from traffic.
These shortest days of the year are very humbling and are a challenge. There isn't much time between sunrise and sunset but it's forever the days to learn the lessons that develop into patience and not a good time to be watching the clock.
The snow came again Saturday night and most of Sunday morning. Another 8 to 10 inches on top of the 8 to 10 that was already there. The fluffy, light snow was easy to shovel but is starting to mound up in shoulder high piles. The extra snow means extra work but it's hard to complain when everything looks like a winter wonderland.
There hasn't been many white Christmases here in the past 20 years but this year it will be especially white, it's truly a beautiful sight.
Even though I had a busy day Sunday I couldn't resist a moonlight walk in the fresh white snow. The landscape is a cross country skier's dream but sometimes I prefer to walk. The new snow was so light that it gave little resistence to these tired old legs. I got a little carried away and was out for 2 hours but after all, it is my favorite time for a winter walk.
Winter came early this year and it's a long wait for Spring but the days are getting longer and I know that Spring will win in the end, I just need to have a little patience.
Please, do spend some of your holiday time outdoors, making some tracks down Nature's trail.
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