Wednesday, December 20, 2006

An Almost Winter Morning

This morning is crisp, a welcome change from the warm, foggy mornings of just a day or so ago. It doesn’t quite feel like late December yet, but it’s closer. Roundtop made snow last night for the first time in two weeks. . I hear a Great-Horned Owl hooting almost every morning when I leave the cabin to take Dog on his morning walk. This morning Dog saw one of the snowmakers head up one of the slopes on a snow machine and was determined to chase it. I saw a pale Red-tailed Hawk fly out of the trees just around dawn and circle over the valley before disappearing.

The number of birds at my feeder is steadily increasing. They get bolder as it gets colder and more difficult for them to find natural food. This morning, both titmice and chickadees almost landed in the seed container as I carried it across the deck to the feeder. Several were within 12 inches of landing in it or on my hand before they “chickened” out. Their boldness is a sign they are hungry. When natural food is plentiful, they aren’t inclined to approach before I’ve dumped their seed and turned away. Later, during snowstorms or ice storms, they will often land on my hand or in the open seed dish as I carry it to their feeder.

I enjoy it when one of these tiny birds lights on my hand to grab a seed. They don’t usually stay long enough for me to examine them when they are so close. They usually just flash in, wings fluttering, grab a seed and bolt away. I can barely feel them when they do this. The titmice and chickadees don’t weigh anything. I might feel the curve of their feet around the edge of my hand, but if it weren’t for that, I’m not sure I would notice any sense of weight.

Over all, the woods are quiet right now. Deer hunting season is over, but the surviving deer haven’t yet visited the cabin. The raccoons and possums are hibernating. The squirrels are still around, regularly raiding the bird feeders. I haven’t seen a turkey since fall. Perhaps the quiet has something to do with it, but it is finally starting to feel like winter.

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