Another year has passed, and the new one, for many, will begin with some resolutions intended to make their lives a little better in the coming year. My resolution on January 1st is to welcome each new day into my life. Let my life pass one day at a time, and know that I greeted each of them.
The changing of dates on the calendar means nothing to the wildlife around us, but the arrival of winter solstice does change everything for those who live outdoors. They will react instinctively to the change in the amount of daylight in their lives. For them, it is the beginning of the slow, but determined quest toward spring.
Watching the winter wildlife is much more interesting when there is snow. For the flock of black crows that stand in the white snow, the clash of color makes them seem more animated. I've enjoyed watching them recycle a deer carcass in the meadow. The deer, half hidden in the snow, has no less than 20 crows all trying to get a bite from all different angles, clucking and chattering as their shiny black feathers rise and fall. It seems to be a feeding frenzy, but to them it's just a typical breakfast together.
The White-tailed Deer are fun to watch as they wade through the new snow. A pretty doe stopped and looked in my direction, her nostrils searching for my scent on the wind. She has the ability to hear in all directions without moving her head. With one ear facing east and the other held west, she could hear behind and in front of her at the same time. Her beautiful big ears searched for any sound that would tell her where I was. Of course, I didn't move a muscle, even though I was already mostly hidden behind a tree. After a little while, the doe went back to browsing for food, and I walked off in the other direction.
Sometime around mid-morning on Friday, I watched a very bold Bald Eagle who had come to pick at the deer carcass in the meadow. From inside the confines of my warm house, I focused in on him with a 60x spotting scope, bringing him right up in my face. To see any of Nature's wonders up close is an experience to behold, but to see this magnificent beauty in detail is a rare lesson for the heart. A light snow fell around the eagle, and I watched as he occasionally raised his head and looked around with intense yellow eyes, resting his sharp yellow beak. Then to my surprise, several brave, black crows lit several yards away from the feeding eagle, who paid no attention to them whatsoever. The crows were hungry and figured there was room for them at the table, so they walked in closer. I thought surely the Eagle the would spook them off, but he never did. Instead, he allowed them a space at the other end to pick at. I'm thinking that this Eagle is pretty fat and is doing OK feeding on the many deer carcasses in the area. But if he were really hungry, the crows would sense it and they wouldn't dare come too close.
There were some interesting sightings this year at the annual Christmas bird count. We spotted lots and lots of wild turkeys, although I haven't got a final total. To give you an idea of how the turkeys bunch up when the snow is deep, I counted 96 in one small, picked cornfield. We also counted hundreds of crows and 30-40 Red-tailed Hawks in the 15 mile radius used as our current territory.
Some of the unusual things we saw were three Northern Shrikes, three Wilson's Snipes, a Red-winged Blackbird, a few Robins, three Bluebirds, a Rufus-sided Towhee, a Yellow-shafted Flicker...and a Partridge in a Pear tree. Ha!
Happy New Year!
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