It's been back to the deep freeze this past week, crispy cold nights with bright moonlight glowing on the snow covered landscape. The five inches of fluffy snow that came last week hasn't melted a bit. Even on sunny days, the temperature only gets to about 18 degrees F, with lows of 10 to 15 below zero under clear skies at night. Each day I make a few more trips to the woodpile, and each evening I find myself backing up to the woodstove more often and lingering longer. It's a sure bet I no longer forget to put on warm gloves before I step outside, and pull my hat down over those exposed ears.
You know it's cold when the snow squeaks under your boots!
But around here, you just take it as it comes, and you adjust.
A birding friend of mine told me about a recent trip he took to Northern Minnesota. He reported that the word "winter" takes on a whole different meaning up there. The highlight of his trip was getting a good look through his spotting scope at a Northern Hawk owl. His excellent description of the owl brought back my own memories of the few I've seen. The Hawk owl is 14 to 17 inches tall and has a longish, hawk-like tail. From a distance, the bird looks more hawk than owl. I've never heard one call, but was once told that they sound a lot like a Kestrel: "ki ki ki ki ki." These roaming owls came from the far northern parts of the continent, and are rarely seen as far south as the U.S.
This past Sunday was set aside for the annual Christmas bird count. I joined up with some friends (other Organic Valley employees and neigh bors) for a day of counting the winter birds. Because of the biting cold, we did most of our bird watching from inside a warm car. The four of us tried to cover an area 15 miles in circumference from the center of La Farge. It takes pretty much all day, but it's time well spent. Besides, it's always fun to be with people who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The object is to get a headcount on every wild bird you see. There were some interesting sightings, including an adult Bald eagle, a flock of Cedar waxwings, Piliated woodpeckers, an Osprey, and a Red Screech owl. Just the day before, my friend Cathy had seen a pair of Bluebirds. It's hard to imagine that Bluebirds like this freezing weather, but they are surprisingly adept at taking care of themselves in wintry conditions. Like their cousins the Robins, these small blue thrushes will do well eating seeds and dried berries. We didn't see any Bluebirds during the count, but we were able to find 32 other species of birds.
Even though the winter days are cold, it's worth your while to take at least a short walk. If nothing else, the fresh air will give you a boost, and the cold will give you a new, natural perspective.
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