Flocks of Geese

moon phase Week of 12/19/2012 Best days to bake.

A passing flock of Canada geese is hard to miss, because they are constantly talking to each other. Living in a small valley, I rarely ever hear them coming, but when they fly right over the house at night, their calls can wake me out of a sound sleep. The day after Sunday's three and a half inch snow fall, I heard and saw two large flocks of swans pass over the valley heading east. Monday and Tuesday night I heard several flocks of geese flying over the valley. They, too, were headed for the Carolinas. Most of these large, vocal birds have been resting on the Mississippi River. Falling temperatures force them to continue their migration.

Doe Doe It didn't stay cold for long. In fact, day time temperatures were in the forties the rest of the week. I had hoped to find rabbit tracks in the new snow Monday morning, but I guess there just aren't any rabbits around. The cottontail population tends to come and go here. Rabbits like to move around, especially in the hill country, and I wouldn't mind if a rabbit or two would move into this valley. There isn't much for animal tracks in the yard. I see a few squirrel tracks, deer mice and vole tracks, and occasionally the tracks of an opossum that has ventured in and out of the old shed and around the compost pile. I think he's planning on staying around for a while if he finds a warm place to sleep in the shed.

Deer leave most of the tracks in the snow. Each night they come into the yard and look for dried flower tops and leftover bird seed. By Thursday, the yard is covered with deer tracks and a few coyote tracks.

Rooster Pheasant Rooster Pheasant Wednesday afternoon I was surprised to see a beautiful male pheasant scratching around where the snow had melted. How handsome he was, his coat of many colors clashing with the white snow. It's not unusual to see a pheasant in the Kickapoo Valley, but it was only the second time in fourteen years that one has ventured into my small valley. This pheasant didn't stay around long, but I'm thinking he may come back looking for food if we get some more snow.

Lots of Cardinals Lots of Cardinals The snow always seems to bring cardinals together at the bird feeders. I counted eighteen of them bunched up at the platform feeder Tuesday evening. They simply can't resist those black oil sunflower seeds. They are the first birds at the feeder at dawn, and the last ones to leave at dusk. A flock of about thirty slate-colored juncos showed up in the yard today. They are mostly ground feeders and they like to kick around in the short grass where I shoveled the snow under the feeder.

Mourning Doves Mourning Doves Wednesday morning, seven lovely mourning doves came for a free handout of bird seed. They, too, prefer to find their food on the ground, but today they're all huddled together on the long platform feeder. All the birds get out of the way of the mourning doves. Even bluejays and woodpeckers give up their places to the peaceful doves. Doves may be peaceful, but it doesn't mean they lack spirit.

There have never been so many road-killed deer in the Kickapoo Valley, many more  since mid-summer, and even more since late fall. I find it sad that we do so poorly at interacting with these beautiful animals. I pull the car over where it is safe to get out and drag a dead deer a few more yards away from the dangerous highway, because it may save the lives of many small and large mammals that scavenge the carcass and end up getting hit, as well. Vultures are not the only opportunistic feathered scavengers. Hawks and eagles are lured to the sight of red meat and will take advantage of a free meal. These large birds of prey are slow to take wing quickly enough to avoid a passing car.

Young Male Bald Eagle Young Male Bald Eagle The road-killed doe that I pulled over for this morning had two young bald eagles standing on top. They were only a few feet from the edge of the road and flew across the road as I slowed down, a bad situation for the not very street-wise young eagles. The young male eagle perched in a tall cottonwood tree only fifty yards away while I dragged the deer twenty-five yards off the road. I hope my action avoided an eagle-car collision. It would be nice if the county road crews would take a few minutes to move road-killed animals farther afield.

Slate-colored Junco Slate-colored Junco On Saturday it rained most of the day and into the night. The snow is gone. Sunday is overcast and forty-seven degrees, and the warm spell will supposedly continue into next week. It's the 16th of December, and the ground hasn't frozen yet. Already I'm wondering about the spring's maple syrup run, if there is one.

Naturally Yours,

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Ella from from St.Louis MO on December 23, 2012 at 01:06:27 PM
Wanted to say how much I enjoy and appreciate your column and pictures.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Ella,
    Thanks so much for the positive input. Hope you join me each week for a walk down Nature’s trail. Good to hear from you Ella. Chime in any time.

Mae from from PA on December 23, 2012 at 11:14:16 AM
Oh, please, please give me permission to use the cardinals as my Christmas card next year. So beautiful!!!
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Mae,
    I’m glad you liked the cardinal pictures. I wouldn’t object to you using them but, legally, they belong to Organic Valley. You’d have to get permission from their legal department, I guess. Give it a try.
    Thanks for writing, Mae.

Deb from from Deale, Maryland on December 21, 2012 at 05:14:04 PM
Wow, what a treat! Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos. I would love to see a flock of cardinals that large, and the young eagles! You are so fortunate to live amongst and provide a safe haven for them all.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Deb,
    Everyone likes cardinals. The reason is obvious. I love it when they all gather together at the feeders in the winter. I feel blessed every day to live in a place where Nature is always around me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    Thank you for the nice comments, Deb.

VF Chapmon from from Cleburne Texas on December 20, 2012 at 03:48:35 PM
Love all these pictures, here in Texas we call the Cardinals Red birds and I have them coming to my bird feeder all yr. they are my favorite bird. Thank you for sharing your beautiful world.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear VF,
    Glad you like the pictures, and yes, it is a true joy to have the cardinals come to the bird feeders all year. Funny how a few sunflower seeds can enrich your life with color.
    Good to hear from you, VF.

Jan from from TN on December 19, 2012 at 08:58:10 PM
Such a nice article (not the road-kill part, I hate to see that)but you got some snow, and got some good sightings of the K Valley wildlife. I have had a few chickadees and tufted titmice feeding here. There will be more, saw one White-throat Sparrow feeding on Sunday. First one of those this year. Hope Christmas is nice and Merry there in your little valley!! Happy naturing.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Jan,
    Thanks again for the compliments, Jan. You’re always so thoughtful. I think it must come from keeping an eye on Nature’s kin. Maybe you’ll be lucky and that beautiful little white-throated sparrow will stick around for a while. Happy New Year!

Astri from from Evanston, IL on December 19, 2012 at 05:42:32 PM
Thank you for your beautiful observations. Would you please add my name to your mailing list? Is there a charge?
marilee from from Eugene, OR on December 19, 2012 at 12:24:15 PM
I so enjoy your blogs, Dan. Thank you, and Merry Christmas or whatever you might celebrate this season.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Marilee,
    So glad to know you enjoy Down Nature’s Trail. Hope you continue to join me for a walk each week. Thanks for the note, and a happy new year to you, too. The winter equinox is the most significant “holiday” for me.

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