Since deer hunting season opened, there seem to be more eagles in the area. I saw six different Bald eagles today, three of them in juvenile plumage. Eagles are good scavengers, and take advantage of where a hunter has field dressed a deer. One particular young eagle sat on a high limb that reached out over the gravel road. I stopped and rolled down my window and snapped his picture. He looked straight down at me and didn't even ruffle a feather. I drove away slowly, leaving him there to bask in the sun.
The tiny springs that often trickle from the rock-outcroppings are not big waterfalls of icicles. As the water keeps running over the rocks, it freezes and slowly builds up to make beautiful winter art. Sometimes the ice is very blue or even pink. As long as it stays cold enough to make ice, the ice-falls will be a part of the Kickapoo winter landscape.
There's a new bird at the bird feeder this week. A male Rufous-sided towhee is feeding on the ground with the juncos. He's not a bird you would expect to see this time of year. They are here all summer but usually move on when the insects are gone. I know they eat sunflower seeds, since they come to the bird feeders all summer. The towhees, like many other songbirds, know what to feed their young in the summer—insects!
Some of the most numerous birds to use the feeders are the chickadees. They are here every day, a dozen or more, but during the nesting season they too are absent. They turn their attention to catching the plentiful, nutritious insects. Like the robins and bluebirds, who often tough out the winter, I wouldn't be surprised if this towhee stays until Spring.
What is the most beautiful attribute of a wild bird? Some would say it's their plumage, which sets them apart from other birds. Others would tell you it's their song that is so very special. Don't forget, almost all of them have one thing in common: They can fly—and that's a hard thing to match. The truth is, I can't find a single thing that isn't beautiful in any wild bird.
When I noticed a dead junco under my window this morning, the first thing I felt was guilt. Then it hit me that this lovely bird would never fly again or sing his gentle, spring song. I always have to wrestle with denial for a bit after I find a little dead bird under a window. Three or four times a year a bird will hit the window hard enough to kill it. You might say, "Oh, that's not so bad," but a single wild bird that dies needlessly, is too many.
When I put a new feeder up, the first thing I consider is a safe place. The stand should not be straight out and level with a window on the house. Startled birds may think they are taking cover in a dark, sheltered place, and quickly fly to it, not knowing there's a window that will stop them.
I always place feeders at angles to the windows, so that a bird flying from the window hits the window at a glance. They may be stunned or a little shaken, but usually they recover quickly. I also like window feeders, because they bring the birds in so close to the window that they won't hurt themselves if they fly into it. Providing perches near the feeders gives the birds options as to where they land. It's easy to tack up a few small branches as perches.
The sunsets in the valley are a flood of yellow light that gives a golden hue to the tops of the Sumac. The dried flower heads of the New England asters are all aglow with the sunset's light. The Highbush cranberries are still able to reflect the setting sun in their bright, red berries. It takes a real freeze to finally shrivel the juicy yet hardy berries.
A fine, wet snow came late Sunday afternoon and by nightfall it was beginning to cover the ground. It was a lovely sight, the snow that came at twilight. Sticking to the bushes and the trees and being driven by just a slight breeze. Tomorrow morning's walk will be special, making tracks in the new snow and finding tracks from animals. That first walk in the new snow is always an adventure. It's an opportunity to observe a whole new landscape, and help me embrace the winter to come.
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