We’ve been seeing some wonderful birds this winter in our yard at our feeders. Let me share some of them with you, starting from December. This first set of pictures were taken that month, before and after the snow started. I have pictures here of some old friends and some new-like this Downy Woodpecker. Do you think someone should tell her that bugs don’t live in concrete or vinyl siding-or does she know something that I don’t?
We also see plenty of our old standbys, the Chickadees and the Titmice. They like to come and dine about 9:30 in the morning and about 4-5:00 in the afternoon-with an occasional snack or two throughout the day. The Titmice are one of Yang’s favorites, and he likes to call them “little faces.” With their big, expressive eyes, you can understand why. In this picture we have one of the cute chickadees.
One of my favorite birds is one of the first signs of winter: the Slate-Colored Junco. That’s the name they went by when I was first birding; however, I’ve noticed them now called “Dark-Eyed Juncos.” Maybe they all invested in brown contacts. I love their blue-grey coloring (though some are more brownish) and their white tails that flash when the fly away, as they give a call that sounds like castanets. We have large numbers of them in my yard, which it just fine with me.
These two Juncos don’t look to happy to meet.
“Who You lookin’ at?”
The Goldfinches haven’t flown away until the spring. They’ve just changed their sprightly spring plumage for heavy winter coats. One fellow appeared to have a white cap of feathers, even with his winter color. So, I dubbed him Whitecap. Original, aren’t I? However, closer viewing of him through these photos shows that his cap is more light yellow than white. Nevertheless, he’s staying “Whitecap,” as Slightly Light Yellow Cap” is way too much of a mouthful.
Here’s another nice shot of Whitecap, with a Goldfinch pal (in the upper left corner) who apparently thinks he’s a bat. I’ve got to stop watching Forever Knight when these guys are in the windows.
Here’s another one of Snowcap, after he was reading up on Edward Taylor and thought he ought to go out and starting preaching to Juncos. Of course, if Snowie believes in predestination, that suggests that even other species can be saved.
I particularly like this picture because it includes so many: Juncos, Goldfinches, and another of my favorites, the Carolina Wren, on the left. She doesn’t quite look like a wren because she doesn’t have her little bum cocked in the air, but her long beak and white eye-stripe give her away. We have at least one pair who come to my feeders. They’ve been around the house for several years, but it’s only the past three or four that I’ve seen them year round, and so frequently in the winter. I often hear them in the trees of the woods behind my house and across the street. I named this pair, Carolina and Carey. Additionally, note the Goldfinch coming in out of inter-dimensional travel in the upper middle of the photo.
We also had an unexpected visitor on our suet feeder. Regard this handsome Mockingbird. Usually I don’t see them in the winter. However, I was informed that they don’t travel south, but hide out in deep woods during the cold months. Apparently this guy didn’t get the memo about hiding out. He or she comes to see us just about every day to chow down on the suet. I know these birds tend to be highly aggressive, but this one really doesn’t seem to mind sharing.
Now, there’s one last interesting addition to our flocks: Mr. Cooper, as in Cooper’s Hawk. This guy showed up low on the Canadian Maple in our back yard, right outside my living room window. The first time I saw him was in mid-January, when I couldn’t get any good shots. Then, this week, he popped by and I was lucky, getting these three pix. Now I definitely know what caused the splash of blood and feathers on the snow near the tree last week. Still, he does leave alone the little birds-hardly worth consideration as hors d’ouevres? Anyway, click on the photos to get a good look at him-or her.
Anyway, now I think I understand why White Ears (named for these white tufts in his ears) has been keeping a low profile recently.
This Halloween, Yang and I treated ourselves to a hike in the cold autumn air at Colbrook Reservoir Park. Once a small town was on this land, but the river was damned to create a reservoir here that flooded it out. Relax, they moved the people out first. Appropriately for the day, when the water is low in times of drought, there’s a ghost to be seen. More on that later. However, as you can see in this picture, though the colors might not have been flamingly spectacular, they were still pretty.
We went the opposite way, down the old highway that is often covered when the reservoir is not in drought mode. The two-lane highway makes for a pretty smooth walk and is in surprisingly good condition for something that’s been submerged off and on over forty or so years. You can see from this photo that the water level is waaaay down. The boat launch is yards from the water and the water looks to be extremely shallow.
There are lots of interesting rock formations and trees on either side of the road. There’s also supposed to be lots of wildlife around. We were fortunate enough to see an American Kestrel, a bird I haven’t seen too much of lately. The blue feathers on its back are gorgeous, especially when they contrast with the rusty red of its sides. I was surprised not to see much in the way of waterfowl- only a mallard powering along the water. You’d think there’d be plenty taking a rest stop on their migration route-whichever way they were going. Perhaps the water was too shallow to provide much of a traveler’s buffet. We didn’t see any beavers, but we did see the evidence of them.
There was also some nice views of the autumn colors in the hills surrounding the valley through which we walked .
If you click on this picture and look carefully, you can see the remains of old stone walls that marked the property boundaries of the people who had lived here
We came to an old bridge over a run-off into the river and could see further upstream the remnants of another bridge that had once led into the town. Looking down into the river and valley from the old highway, I couldn’t help thinking of what a beautiful setting this place was in which to live, with the hills and forest flanking you on one side, the small but swift river separating you from the highway, and the hills of rock and trees rising on the other. And then there was that clear blue sky! Greenly gorgeous in summer, brilliantly flaming in fall, and Christmas-card white in winter. It must have been hard to leave such a beautiful place behind. Of course, that’s just my imagination running fanciful and feeling.
Now, I promised to tell you about the “ghost” of the reservoir. Well, it’s neither human nor animal, but metal. “Huh?” you say? The phantom is known as the Ghost Bridge. When the reservoir is not in drought, the bridge is submerged. However, in seasons where there’s a dearth of water, like this year, the water recedes enough for you to see a metal bridge that crosses from one bank to the other of the old river bed into the little settlement that had been there. This year, we were in luck! Behold some neat shots that I got. You can tell by looking at the length of the bridge that the river must have been much narrower, originally-unless cars back then had aqualungs as standard equipment. Some other people we talked to that day (from over six feet away and masked) told us that someone had placed pumpkins on the boulders on our side of the bridge entrance. If you click on the first picture and look carefully, you can see an orange object. If you click on the second picture, you can see those boundary-marking stone walls. Boo!
As beautiful an embodiment of fall as this day was, it also presaged winter. Not only was the weather brisk, but what I consider one of the first signs of winter appeared there: hundreds of slate-colored juncos! I love their slate blue coloring, with the white flash in their tails when they fly off and make a sound like little castanets!
Here are a few more shots of the foliage and rocky landscape.