I saw a flock of twelve Robins yesterday, gathered together on the top branches of a 20 foot tall sumac. It was a gorgeous scene, with the snowflakes drifting down around them as they fluttered to gain their balance on the clusters of red sumac berries. I've been seeing Robins on a weekly basis all winter, but usually only two or three at a time. Gone is the excitement that comes in late February when the first Robin-red-breast returns.
There was a time when there was as good a chance of seeing a Snowy owl in the winter as of seeing a Robin. There would be a chance sighting once or twice every couple of years, of either of these birds. Two readers have told me they have seen Snowy owls this winter. Both of these beautiful, large, white owls were seen perching high a the top of utility poles. When they are up high like that, their white plumage sticks out like a sore thumb against the sky. They are much easier to spot when they are perched higher, as when they perch on a fence post, they blend into the snowy landscape.
So far, the month of February has been snowy and very cold. It's kinda hard to even think about Spring under these conditions. If you're lucky, there's a garden catalog in the mail that will help you dream of those warm Spring days.
In spite of the winter weather, there are lots of Spring signs around my place these days. The gray squirrels are showing signs of aggression towards each other, as well as some signs of affection. The males try to avoid each other, but find it hard to do as they chase each other up and down the tree trunks. On the other hand, a male squirrel can often be seen now following close behind a female, if she'll let him. For the squirrels, these courting activities will lead the way to little ones, who will appear late in the Spring.
In spite of the single digit temperatures, the Chickadees have bee singing their Spring song the past few mornings. A couple of male Cardinals sing out with their high-pitched Spring song. Their cheery songs always lift my spirits and renew my faith that warmer days are just around the corner. I'll keep the faith and try to show patience, even though the weather man says there's another 4 to 6 inches of snow possible tonight.
While the cold temperatures have kept many folks inside this winter, there are those who are taking advantage of the opportunity to play in the snow. Cross-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing, are popular fun for many. Ice fishing has become even more popular the past few winters, which confirms my belief that despite our complaints, there's a winter-loving spirit in most of us.
I heard the call of a Pileated Woodpecker this morning. His loud chatter startled me at first because I hadn't heard one in this valley since early December. It's not unusual for me to hear these crow-sized Woodpeckers most any time of the year, but they don't seem to be as vocal in the dead of winter. We are lucky to have so much Woodpecker activity here in the Coulee region of Southwest Wisconsin. Those commonly seen here in the winter include the Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers. Spring heralds the arrival of the Red-headed Woodpecker, the Yellow-shafted Flicker, and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Come May and June, these wooded Kickapoo Valleys will be alive with the tapping and songs of all these beautiful Woodpeckers.
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