It snowed late yesterday afternoon, so there's about half an inch of fluffy wet snow that should be shoveled off the path to the house. While there was still enough light to see, I thought I'd better spend a few minutes clearing the path. The shovel was still out in the old shed, where it's been since the last snow fall.
It was cold, dim and quiet in the shed, but when I found the shovel, I heard the muffled crunching of someone walking in the snow. There at my feet, was a hold in the wall where a couple of old boards had rotted away. When I bent over to look out the hole, I was very surprised to see an opossum peering in at me. I'd seen his tracks before, going in and out of the hole in the wall, but I hadn't come face to face with him until now. He looked pretty fit, which tells me that he did OK this winter. His hairless ears and tail, pink nose and fingers didn't look like they'd been frostbitten yet. His round black eyes are typical of one who spends much of their time searching in the dark. They kind of remind me of the smaller black eyes of a deer mouse or flying squirrel—round and black, they will absorb light on the darkest of nights.
To help the possum find his way in very dark places, he has many long whiskers straying out from him face. His body hair may appear coarse and wiry, but it's actually quite soft.
There are very few folks around these parts who aren't tired of winter by now. Everyone is eager for some signs of spring, and they may get their wish this week, when the temperature rises to around 50 degrees. That will melt some of this winter snow, and more signs of Spring will emerge. It should be an interesting week, watching to see what the warm weather brings.
There's one important thing to do before you sit down and page through that new seed catalogue. It's time to get those Bluebird houses cleaned out and repaired. If it warms up this week, there will be some early Bluebirds migrating through. You may even consider a couple of new birdhouses, because the more options the birds have, the better the chances that they will stay around. This may be the year you provide a nesting box for the Screech owl or a family of Wood ducks. This is the same kind of box a Kestrel might also use.
I like to recycle lumber when building bird houses. I go 10 - 12 inches wide and 20 inches long for these large nesting boxes. A 3 1/2-inch hole 3 or 4 inches from the top is best—and no, the hole doesn't have to be round, but a round hole may be more appealing. The flat roof should have several inches of overhang in the front and sides. A 1x4-inch board 30 inches long and screwed to the center of the back of the box, will give you a way to nail it to a tree. Hang the box at least 15-20 feet high against a level place on the tree trunk, and you're all set. Sounds like a challenge, but it's worth it if you are lucky enough to invite a Kestrel, owl or Wood duck to use your new bird house.
There are many different options for bird houses and nesting boxes—you can find designs on many websites. Some are more complex than others, but I like to keep it as simple as possible. By all means, put as much time and energy into building a birdhouse as you want. Either way, your efforts will be rewarded!
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