We all knew the nice weather wouldnít last much longer and it finally made an abrupt turn by the weekend. A beautiful 62 degrees and sunny on Thursday had turned to 40 degrees and rainy on Friday and snow flurries on Saturday. Thatís how it goes in Wisconsin this time of the yearóone day may be much different than the day before. All week I had been taking pictures of wildlife as they enjoyed the sunshine. A couple of eagles sit on the same limb as they preen the rays of the morning sun through their feathers. The juvenile eagle wonít get her adult white head and tail for four years, but she is a very imposing figure in spite of not having the royal plumage of her adult parents. With no leaves on the trees, the eagles have no place to hide. They are very large and dark and can be seen a quarter mile away perched in a tree. I see eagles here regularly and always slow down to get a better look. They never fail to impress me and stir my spirit.
A large flock of Canada geese enjoy a leisurely evening on the marsh pond. They are safe and at peace on the still water that will soon turn to ice. The summer work of the Yellow-bellied sapsucker is now apparent and I can plainly see where they have pecked rows of little holes in the tree trunks. The holes will drip sap the sapsucker eats and along wit the insects that come for their share of the sap. The sweet sap is also eaten by the little hummingbirds. They are grateful for the sapsuckersí handiwork.
If I were a betting man, I would say that the Painted turtle sunning himself on a log on Thursday would be the last turtle I will see until spring. After all, it was the eleventh of November and getting kinda late for reptiles and amphibians. The olí weatherman has predicted more sixty-degree weather by the weekend and Iíll be watching the river for turtles. Maybe winter isnít quite here yet for the turtles.
Flying low over the farmland, a Northern shrike is hunting for small birds and voles. This unusual robin-sized bird is often overlooked and when perched may be mistaken for a robin. Almost always seen alone hunting the broken woodland in early to late winter, the shrikeís upper parts are gray with a black mask through the eyes. There are flashes of white in his wings and tail in flight. Iíve been keeping my eye out for shrikes and was rewarded last Wednesday when I spotted one who landed in a small ten-foot tree at the edge of a pasture. He was nice enough to let me take his picture but he didnít sing his beautiful thrasher-like song for me.
Thursday, the early morning sun glistened off what looked like a deerís antler poking up through the tall grass fifty yards off the country road. The ten-point buck had been lying in the grass for two to three weeks after being fatally struck by a car. The deer was in the process of being recycled by the coyotes who left only the hide and bones. Itís good that the deer doesnít go to waste and his fate will feed many others, but being killed by a car is far from dying of natural causes.
The Barred owl lying motionless at the edge of the road also met an unjust death. The roadways are open paths that small animals must cross frequently, and the owl, knowing this, perches nearby and watches to see who crosses the road. The hungry owl concentrates on catching a meal and doesnít pay attention to the oncoming car, a fatal mistake that happens over and over. Itís a good chance to see an owl close up but one that I would rather live without.
There are some of us who drive ten mph slower, knowing it could mean fewer road-killed birds and animals, but the majority of people drive faster than the speed limit. The wildlife bounces off their cars but causes little damage to their hearts. This time of year the White-tailed deer are very active and may cross a road at any time, day or night. Itís their mating season and they are very distracted to say the least. We can give them a little space by slowing down and being aware of them.
I hope you are enjoying the natural world wherever you live. Look around you, listen, let nature into your life and reap the rewards truth, logic and compassion can bring.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley