Great Horned Owl

moon phase Week of 12/27/2009 Best days to harvest aboveground crops.

I have some advice for anyone who likes to go for a walk down Nature's trail when the temperatures are below zero (F). If you're like me, keeping your feet warm is your main concern. I depend on warm, wool socks and boots that don't fit so tight. Of course, it also helps to keep moving. When I got back from my morning walk, the chickadees were there at the porch, waiting for me. Until then, I was thinking of going in and getting my feet warm by the stove. It was still pretty dark when I left for a walk, and I hadn't put out any seed yet. The chattering chickadees let me know they were ready for breakfast. All of a sudden, my cold feet didn't feel so cold after all, and I stepped onto the porch to get some black sunflower seeds. I held out both palms full of seed, and three chickadees fluttered down and lit in my hands. I fed them from my hands for 10 to 15 minutes, then put the rest of the seed on the feeders. The blue jays have been patiently waiting nearby, being too shy to come too close to me. It's a little odd, because they are cousins to the chickadees. How bad can the rest of a cold winter day be, if you start it off with a chat with the birds? With a little patience on a cold morning, anyone can have a tiny bird in their hand.

Great Horned Owl

It was close to my bedtime, and I was checking the woodstove one last time, when the phone rang. My mother's gentle voice at the other end said, "Listen; just listen." She was holding the phone out the open door so I could hear the hoots of a pair of Great horned owls. They were perched in a large weeping willow tree, and it was too dark for her to make them out, but she sure enough heard them. It's time for the Great horned owls to start their courtship before mating in a few weeks. The male, who may only be half the size of the female, has the lower of the two songs. A pair of owls singing to each other in late December is the first sign of spring.

The white-tailed deer have had to make some adjustments in their eating habits since the snow covered the ground. All the green, grassy places where they prefer to graze are now covered with a foot of snow. There is still grass and corn to eat, if they want it bad enough to paw through the snow to reach it. The deer in this valley have been browsing along the edge of the woods, eating the tender ends of shrubs and bushes. It's going to be a long winter for them, if December was any indication of what the rest of winter will be like. At night, their ghostly figures can be seen in the snow-covered garden. The doe and her yearling search for anything edible, then slowly step over to the creek for a drink. I've never put out any food for the deer, but they do find a few scraps of seed under the bird feeders. It's always a pleasure to see the gentle deer; they are always welcome here.

The annual Christmas bird count was done last Saturday, with six happy birders eager to search for any birds. The final tally wasn't in yet, but it will be around 35 different species of wild birds seen. Some of the notable sightings included a Yellow-shafted flicker, Red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawk, Northern shrike, Harrier, Kingfisher, Cedar waxwings, and a robin. It's always a good time, spending hours with friends while watching for wild birds. It's a good way to introduce kids and beginners to the beautiful world of the birds. I have many fond memories of Christmas bird counts from years' past, dating back to 1954. It's like a treasure hunt for me, and I look forward to it every December.

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Comments

Lois from from Seattle,WA. +98107 on January 16, 2010 at 02:01:09 PM
Hi again Dan,
I read and reread your writings of your encounters with wildlife I live in the city to be near my daughter and the doctors now.But my heart longs to be in the country.
Thanks for sharing
Lois
Shannon from from Huntley on January 14, 2010 at 10:20:53 PM
Curious if you ever thought that maybe instead of global warming the cardinals stay north more because more people feed them. Bird feeders are quite common these days and weren't say 20 years ago. I never knew anyone with a feeder until I hit my 30's. Just posing an alternative view not being combative. I love the outdoors and all of God's creatures.
Christine from from United States on January 13, 2010 at 06:33:16 PM
I've always known that Canada Geese mate for life, but thanks to you, I now know that Cardinals do as well! I lived in PA most of my life and loved seeing the brilliant red with the white snowy background - and now, here in TX, I still love seeing the Cardinals - my favorite winter bird who come each morning and evening to the feeders.
When I back east to the PA/NY area, I love to look for the Bald Eagles who live and next in the Delaware Valley. What magnificient creatures~
Irene from from Santee, CA on January 9, 2010 at 04:25:02 PM
I loved the article on the eagles and always enjoy your paintings.

Have a wonderful New Year and keep up the good work.
sharon from from new jersey on January 7, 2010 at 02:16:37 PM
Dan, It was great as usual to read this story about the two bald eagles. Honestly, I had never thought about it before about the wear and tear that their feathers would get from the wind and the lightning, (of all things)! Your column always helps me to imagine that I am there seeing the same things that you are. Thank you for sharing.
Kent from from McMinnville, Oregon on January 6, 2010 at 09:19:52 PM
I appreciate your stories and your drawings.

It reminds me to take time to look around and appreciate nature's symphony.

Thank you.
Fay from from Louisiana on January 3, 2010 at 02:43:46 PM
Hello from Fay in Louisiana.
Hope you had a wonderful holiday season. Enjoyed reading your column this winter. Sadly, I haven't seen one robin here this year. Really appreciate your birding reports.
Hope you have a great New Year.
Judy from on December 30, 2009 at 08:53:13 PM
I just adore the little chickadees. I always mock their Bee-bee-bee-bee-bee sound..lol I use to have pet finches and I'd talk to them the same way. They were so funny, they'd always get so excited.But, you know, I've never thought of trying to hand feed those chickadees. I'm going to try that. They come very close to me when I fill the feeders. hmmm We shall just see.
Judith from from Chesapeake VA on December 30, 2009 at 06:36:15 PM
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your postings about your life and all the birds. About 3 years ago, my brother and sister went to Brownsville TX and I saw 52 new birds. Thanks again.
Darla Rae from from Youngstown, OH on December 30, 2009 at 03:31:09 PM
Thank you for sharing Down Nature's Trail. It is amazing how much I learn about nature from your writings. I enjoyed your video on youtube as well. You are right, it is like having the opportunity to experience nature's wonderful creatures up close through your drawings. Hoping all the best for you.
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