This week I witnessed tragedy where Nature's trail crosses the road. No less than three white-tailed deer have been hit by cars within 100 yards of the house in the past week. The hungry deer tend to move around a lot when the food becomes scarce. Because the ground is covered with hard, frozen snow, the deer resort to browsing on the tender ends of bush branches—the kinds of short woody bushes that grow along the roadsides. Every road-killed deer I see takes with them a little piece of my heart and I've always felt it was an unjust way for these beautiful animals to die.
There's enough moonlight now to light the way at night. It's an altogether different world out there on a cold winter night. I enjoy just standing still while listening to the clear, defining quiet. Not a sound, just the beautiful snow-covered stillness. It's a nice time to take a walk down Nature's trail and experience what silence really sounds like. Most of us don't realize how much noise we are subjected to in our busy lives. A night-time winter walk may help you find that peace and quiet you've forgotten about.
The best time to take a night walk in the winter is when the moon is full and shining at its brightest. My old friend Fran Hammerstrom asked me to take a walk with her one night when the moon was full many years ago. While we walked through the powdery, brightly lit snow, she told me about a book she had written, "Walk When the Moon is Full," of stories of moonlight walks with her children as they grew up. Fran said that often she would have to wake the children when the moon rose late, but they were always eager to join her on an adventure. I highly recommend moonlight walking in the winter, or any month of the year.
Since the snow and cold came to this Kickapoo Valley, the bird feeders have seen non-stop action all day. I love feeding the birds, but I was never one to "over feed" them. The seed I put out for them every morning is enough just for the day, with a little left over for visitors who come at night. By nightfall, the bird seed is pretty much all used up, but a deer mouse can still find some little pieces and he scurries to hide them under a nearby brush pile. A fat cotton-tailed rabbit who was hiding all day under the brush pile, comes out after dark and nibbles up the tiny pieces of cracked corn. The flying squirrels pay a nightly visit to the bird feeders, but you'd never know they were there. The deer also visit the bird feeders every night, always on the hunt for something to snack on. When the temperature drops below zero, I'm more generous with the seed, so I put a little extra out a couple of hours before dark.
I saw five Bluebirds this morning lined up on a fence along the road. With white snow all around them, the little thrushes sure looked out of place, but they didn't seem to care. My guess is that they have been eating some nearby Sumac berries. The past few winters I have seen both Bluebirds and Robins. It takes some excitement out of seeing the first ones to arrive in the spring, but still, it's nice to see them when the weather is so cold and snowy.
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