Chipmunk & Chickadee

moon phase Week of 02/03/2008 Best days to prune.

I like getting little surprises when I least expect to see them. These short winter days sometimes seem to be the same, day after day. Over the years, I have learned to watch for the little surprises that add a bit of excitement to a snowy cold day. It might be a new bird at the feeder, or a glimpse of a Cooper's hawk as she darts past the bird feeder. Maybe an Eagle is circling overhead right above the house, or a Screech owl is sunning himself from the owl box. These are just some of these little things that brighten up my day.

Chipmunk & Chickadee

I had to do a double take when I spotted a Chipmunk hopping through the snow to some birdseed I had scattered on a log. The Chickadees didn't want to give up their little stash of bird seed, and they scolded Chippy relentlessly. It didn't take him long to snap up all the sunflower seeds and stuff them in his cheek pouches. Then, off through the snow he scampered, and disappeared under the large brush pile. The little Chippy made lots of trips to the brush pile during the day. It could very well be that I won't see him again until Spring. Chipmunks around here usually start hibernating in late October and don't appear again until mid-April. It's rare to see one in the cold dead of winter.

Just as predicted, 8 inches of fluffy snow came Wednesday night and Thursday. It really freshened up the already-white landscape, making for one of the most beautiful winter scenes here in a long time. A bright moon Thursday night and clear skies made for a perfect night to take a walk in the new snow. As beautiful as it was, it would be a short walk because it was 7 below zero, and I soon realized I wasn't dressed warmly enough. The temperature would drop to -16° before morning. Hard to believe that I saw a Chipmunk and pussy willows only a couple of days ago.

Bless the wild ones who live on the winter landscape. They have paid their dues for the right to live in peace. The weather has been very demanding, and the cold and snow takes its toll. The wild birds keep their feathers fluffed out, and they sit down over their toes to help keep them from freezing. For the first time this winter, they look cold—but after all, it's 25 below at dawn. We can all reflect on what it must be like to spend the night on a tree limb, trying to sleep at 25 degrees below zero. It might help us put things in perspective. We may take the meeting of our own basic needs for granted when we don't realize the price of them.

A steady snow for most of Monday, at times coming down like a Swan's big, white breast feathers. I love to watch this kind of snow as it floats down. It is so fluffy, I can blow a hole 6 inches deep into it without much effort. The weatherman originally predicted 2 to 4 inches, but then changed his forecast to 6 to 10 or more inches. I can't remember the last time we had 30 inches of snow on the ground in the Kickapoo Valley; it's been a long time. This year, the winter landscape has been as beautiful as it gets, I think.

Another 10 inches of white snow means that there's more white ground to reflect, and tonight's full moon was maybe the most beautiful I have ever seen. I just stood in the window and watched this sparkling bluish white, winter picture. The eaves were lined with 3 to 6 foot icicles, hanging a third of the way down in front of the windows. They all sparkled blue, white and silver as the moon beams passed through them, and they reflected the colors that made this night so special. The grayish white smoke from the chimney slowly drifted over the snow covered trees, casting a shadow over everything white. The smoke moved as silently as an owl in flight, only to disappear into the woods.

A night like this reminds me of hunting rabbits with a homemade bow in the moonlight some 50 years ago. The memory of those snowy white, full moon nights has stayed with me my whole life.

Naturally yours,

Dan

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