It's late February and the weather here has been just nice enough to feel spring in the air. The temperature may reach 35 degrees on a sunny day and the melting snow trickles down the hillsides. A chickadee's spring song breaks the morning silence, and then I hear the beautiful whistle of a male cardinal as he delivers his favorite spring song.
The nights have been pretty cold yet and I can imagine the female Great Horned owl nestled over her two newly hatched owlets. In a large stick nest in the tall oak tree, the little owls are small enough to fit in your hand together, but not for long. They will double their size with each passing day, and will be nearly full grown in a little over two weeks. At this point the large downy young don't need Mom to keep them warm during the day, but she still tries to huddle down over them at night. It will take another two or more weeks before they grow out the new feathers that will carry them through the trees over the coming year. For the owls, spring is a reality and they don't waste a day of it.
An inch of fluffy white snow came in the night and brightened up the landscape as it stuck to every branch and bough. I really enjoy the morning after a new snowfall, and I like to check the yard for any fresh tracks in the snow. I followed the new tracks of a raccoon that led me out to the compost pile. The tracks of a cottontail under the birdfeeder are numerous, but probably made by a single rabbit. His evenly-spaced tracks finally disappear under the snow-covered brush pile. A single small deer left fresh tracks that continued completely around the house.
Then I saw a set of tracks near the back porch that I really didn't feel good about seeing. A housecat had been snooping around, and his tracks told me he had followed the path I had shoveled to the old shed near the garden. I followed the tracks out to the shed, thinking he might be hiding there, but the tracks went in and came out. I stayed with the tracks of cat paws that led over to the creek and up to the road where they disappeared on the pavement. I think he went on his way down the road, for now anyway. The birds at the feeders will let me know if he's still hanging around. When a hawk comes into the yard, the little birds get very still and quiet, but a cat makes them chatter with scolding anger.
I picture the cat like a tiger, stalking its prey, creeping out from under the brush pile with a cardinal in the sights of its yellow-green eyes. This is something that comes instinctively to the cat, and is impossible to eliminate through breeding and domestication. A hungry cat is a hungry cat, no matter what kind of cat it is. A domesticated cat on the scene changes the whole otherwise peaceful environment and natural balance in the yard.
I witnessed a rare but always significant casualty at the window today. A beautiful female cardinal hit the window hard, and lay dead on the ground. It will take days for the guilt to leave my spirit and the pain to leave my heart. It would be impossible for me to live in a place where there are no windows, yet I curse them each time a songbird loses its life because of them.
The little White-breasted nuthatches are always fun to watch. I think it's because they are so busy. Up the tree trunk, out on a limb, fly to the ground and back again. Always searching for something to eat, it covers much distance on those tiny black feet. I also enjoy watching and listening to the winter bird, the Slate-colored junco. They start showing up at the feeders around late October and stay well into April. Their summer homes are in the far North, and I have never seen one here in the summer. They spend most of their time hopping along the ground, on constant lookout for tiny bits of seed. They are always alert and living in the moment.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley