The old thermometer rose up over thirty degrees (F) today, and it felt good after several days below twenty. It was cloudy all day, but warm enough to melt just a little bit of the 12 inches of new snow we got Wednesday night. There should be a thin crust on the top of the deep snow, and I will be able to scatter birdseed across the open lawn for the birds. Now they can feed on top of the snow, instead of in it. I do this once in a while, where I can watch the birds from inside the house. It gives me a chance to see who comes, and how many there are.
The old bluebird house looks like it has a fine new white hat, and the snow-covered plant across the creek casts its reflection in the dark water. It seems a little early for so much winter white and bitter cold. The snow came before the cold and insulated the ground before it could freeze. I doubt if there will be much frost in the ground this winter, and wonder how that figures into the coming spring. Will the farmers get into the fields earlier and be able to pasture their livestock earlier? Will the maple trees run as long as usual, and will the frogs, turtles and snakes have an easier time sleeping through the winter? It's hard to predict any of the changes that come in the spring, and only a fool would predict the weather these days. I love the way the wild birds stand out against the white snow. The red in the cardinal, blue in the jay, and the black cap of the chickadee all seem more intense with a white background. While walking back to the house this morning, a flock of Cedar waxwings passed over me and lit in the large Box elder tree near the house. I could only see their silhouettes as they ate the dried seeds on the ends of the branches. I quickly shuffled to the house for the camera, but in vain, as they were gone when I got back out. It's good to know they are around; they usually don't visit this valley often in the winter. They are exceptionally beautiful, and now that I know they're around, I'll try to get some pictures of them. Maybe.
Huddled on the ice at the edge of the river were ten handsome Canadian geese. Their downy breasts covered their black feet as they slept on the ice. It was a cold looking scene, with the icy river and the snow all around, but the geese looked warm and content. Imagine what it must be like to be so comfortable with your natural surroundings—we could get along without our warm houses and cars!
This is the week that the ground usually freezes every year. When the temperature drops below 15 degrees, the topsoil will begin to harden, unless there is a foot or two of snow covering it. This is also the week that the Tundra swans pass through on their way to the Carolinas for the winter. Some of the large flocks fly right over my house, and usually at night. Of all the larger birds who travel in large flocks, including the geese, cranes and pelicans, the beautiful white swans are my favorite to see and hear. A trip to the Everglades a few years ago gave me a chance to see some large birds flying in flocks that I've rarely seen before. Brown pelicans, Wood storks, Ibis and Spoonbills are all fascinating to see when flocked up together. Every winter, I dream of spending my time watching the birds down in warm, sunny Florida.
From now until the days are noticeably longer, are the darkest days of the winter. It's a good time to slow your body and mind, and feed your spirit with peace and rest. Get away from the computer and TV, to read a good book or write a handwritten letter to a loved one. You will be rewarded by following Nature's example.
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