The week started with mild temperatures and a little snow on Tuesday morning. It's always startling to watch the ground turn white when that first snowfall comes. It only amounted to a quarter inch, enough to track a cat in and create the look of winter. By late afternoon, the snow had all melted.
I woke in the night to the loud howling and barking of dogs. I thought I was dreaming, but it continued. When I got up I realized just how close by it was. The excited baying sounded like it was coming from a couple of coon hounds up in the woods about 300 yards from the house. If the dogs had treed a coon or a bobcat, they could stay at it all night. I put on warm clothes and boots, grabbed a flash light and headed in the direction of the noisy dogs. It took me about 15 minutes to climb the wooded hillside to get to the action.
The two coon hounds didn't pay much attention to me when I walked right up to them. They were both nice, friendly dogs with collars, but without my reading glasses, I couldn't read who they belonged to. I sat down on a stump to wait while the dogs went back to baying up the trunk of a large oak tree. When I shined the light up in the tree, I had a little trouble finding what the dogs were excited about, but finally spotted the large raccoon clinging to the end of a large limb.
I waited for the dogs' owner to show up, but he never did. I figured these two had just snuck off for a little nighttime fun on their own. Finally I stood up and abruptly shouted at the dogs to go home and, to my amazement, they left at once. It was the first time in 14 years I've heard the baying of coon hounds in this little valley, but with my curiosity satisfied, I headed for home.
A single doe came into the yard Wednesday morning. She walked around the house like nobody lived here. She stopped a few times to nibble bird seed that had fallen from the feeders without ever knowing I was watching her the whole time.
It was going to be the perfect day for cutting firewood, so after a quick breakfast, I grabbed the chain saw and headed for the far end of the valley. My objective was a couple of dead box elder trees that were easy to get at. It took me about an hour to drop and block up the trees and another hour to pile the small limbs into three nice brush piles for any wildlife that needed a refuge over the winter. While working, I heard the faint calls of a large flock of swans to the south. Although I couldn't see them, I could see them in my mind, beautiful, large, white birds strung out in a big vee. Seems like it's a little early for the swans to be going through, but I guess they know what they're doing.
High in an elm tree a pair of majestic eagles perched together, the larger female to the left of her mate. From that lofty vantage point, they could see all that was going on around them for a mile or more. They were a fine example of our national symbol.
A little robin-sized kestrel perched on a power line along the side of the river road. This male kestrel is only a fraction of the size of the eagles, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with lightning speed. Kestrels are the smallest of all the birds of prey known as falcons, and they are capable of capturing small birds in mid-air. Today, this kestrel is using his keen eyesight to his advantage as he watches the grass below for a field vole to make an appearance. Voles make up the bulk of the little falcon's diet in the winter months. In the summer, he is happy to eat grasshoppers, crickets, frogs and small snakes. In spite of his size, the kestrel is very hardy and will spend the winter here if there are enough voles for him to catch.
Most of the sandhill cranes in the area have left for warmer climates, but there are still a few hanging around. Today, I watched three gray cranes searching the hay stubble for bits of grain and seeds. It may be the last time I see them until early next spring, so I allow myself the pleasure of their graceful beauty for a while longer.
It rained pretty much all day on Sunday, a nice warm rain that is badly needed. It was good timing because I had planted 70 daffodil bulbs the day before, and it was a good way for them to be baptized to the soil. With a little luck, I'll be rewarded with a beautiful show of yellow and white flowers early next spring. It's always good to have such nice things to look forward to.
The single pigeon that has taken up residence here likes to perch on top of a wire suet feeder just outside the house. From here, he can watch the other birds at the feeders and he can also see me inside the house. To my surprise I watched him on several occasions pecking at the suet inside the wire suet container, something I've never seen a pigeon do before. He must figure that if it's good enough for the woodpecker, it's good enough for him. He's a joy to have around, and I hope he spends the winter here. I'll need all the entertainment I can get for the next four to five months.
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