Man, was it cold this past week! Weather like we haven't seen the likes of the last few winters. It's getting to the point where normal weather is becoming abnormal.
The below-zero weather is always a challenge, but I try to take it in stride. That's not hard to do if it's a sunny day and there is no wind. A "cold snap" like this one usually lasts a week or two. This time the weatherman says we're in for a "January thaw" by the weekend and temperatures in the 40s by early next week, which is a big change! It will be interesting to see how long the warm streak last. Will the maples start running their sap in January this year? Just have to wait and see.
No matter the cold, life goes on around me. The wild birds spend all their waking hours searching for food—all the winter animals do. Today, I watched a large Gray squirrel try to share a tray feeder with a larger Fox squirrel. I'd never seen a Gray and a Fox squirrel tangle before, but that's what happened. Normally a Gray will respect the larger and stronger Fox squirrel. But under the stress of hunger, anything can happen. Anyway, the two of them rolled and wrestled around for a few seconds before the Gray was driven off.
An adult Red-tailed hawk was hovering against the cold wind, his keen, sharp eyes searching the snow below. He hovers in the same place below. He hovers in the same place for 10 seconds, his huge wings fanning the air around him. The vole he saw for an instant has ducked back into the small hole in the snow which leads to a trail of tunnels under the snow. For the hawk, catching voles in deep snow is no easy trick. When the weather turns very cold and there's deep snow, things can get touchy for even the most experienced hunters. The sharp cold has also made the hawk sharp. When he is very hungry, all his instincts and senses become very honed. Mother Nature will provide them a great service by bringing a thaw that will help take off some of the pressure. For the wildlife, the first two concerns are #1, find something to eat, and #2, don't be eaten!
There was a beautiful frost on New Year's morning. Everything was covered with sparkling silver frost. The sunshine on the frost-covered landscape was one of those short-lived-treats we get now and then. Kind of like a rainbow, it's glorious—then it's gone. The frost will linger in my memory, but some of Nature's wonders are too beautiful to put down on canvas.
The big stick nest, high in a big oak tree in the woods, was built last spring by a pair of Red-tailed hawks. They raised two young there last summer. Now nestled down in the nest is a large, female Great-horned owl. It's spring for her and her mate. They have gone through the courting and now she has laid two round white eggs in the nest. Her warm, downy breast feathers cover the eggs as she gently incubates the two future owlets. I'm sure the pair of Hawks who built the nest will be upset about being evicted, but they will give in to the Owl family and build another nest somewhere else this spring.
By Sunday night, the warm temperatures had melted about 4 or 5 inches of snow. It's been overcast and foggy and around 50 degrees. Sometimes the start of a week will be the opposite of the end.
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