I thought for today I’d show you a few of the birds and other interesting things I’ve seen in nature over the past week or so. First up is one of our regular feeder visitors, an adorable and very entertaining Red-breasted Nuthatch.
I’ve tried for months to get a good photo of these fast-moving little birds and finally got one good enough to share. Unlike their White-breasted relatives, these guys don’t seem to have the same upside-down feeding style. They’re smaller and they move quicker too. We’ve had at least one of them here every day since October, and a few times have seen two at the same time. It’s always hard to know how many different individuals of any bird you’re seeing, especially when there’s no obvious difference between the sexes, as with these guys (and gals). It could be that on the days we thought we were seeing the same one all day long, it might actually have been two or more of them taking turns at the feeder.
The White-breasted Nuthatches, on the other hand, are here year-round, grabbing nuts and seeds from the feeders to stash in the bark of their favorite trees. I’m pretty sure we’ve got some that nest on our property, although I’ve never gone looking for evidence of that. Maybe this spring I’ll make an effort to find out how many nests we’ve got in our woods.
Speaking of spring and nesting, have you noticed more activity and singing lately? The past week or two I’ve awakened to the sounds of boisterous singing in the yard. Today I heard our resident male Northern Cardinal shouting from the treetops, followed a short time later by the melodic tunes of a Tufted Titmouse. And I’ve seen the Goldfinches chasing each other around too; they’ve already begun molting into their bright breeding colors. These signs of spring are cheering me up, helping pull me through the loooongest part of the winter. What I really need is to see a Red-winged Blackbird here though; their song — conk-la-reee — is one of my favorite sounds of spring. I’ve seen other birders reporting them nearby, so it’s gonna happen any day now, I just know it.
I saw two species of squirrel recently that I don’t see often too: a black morph Gray Squirrel and a Red Squirrel. I encountered the Red Squirrel while walking in the woods along the river a couple weeks ago. The woods were very quiet that day and I was startled when something small suddenly ran through the underbrush near the trail. My first reaction was “What is a chipmunk doing awake at this time of year?”, but then I got a better look as this adorable little guy paused up in a tree to get a better look at me.
He’s so much cuter than the big Fox Squirrels that bully our birds here at home. (Why are some things cuter just because they’re small? Funny.) Whenever I put peanuts out in the tray feeder the Blue Jays and Red-bellied Woodpeckers have to deal with the squirrels who like to sit on the tray for long periods of time, monopolizing all the food.
That same day I found some unusual melting ice formations on the river’s edge too. My photos don’t do justice to how pretty they were in the sunlight. As I took these ice pictures I was thinking of a post written by my friend Lori over at her blog. She did a whole series of photos of a piece of ice she found in a bucket in her yard, even going so far as to link to a site that explains how ice forms. I encourage you to go check it out — she’ll make you look at ice differently from now on!
And to close out this Nature Roundup, here are two yearling deer feasting on a tree stump outside our dining room, where I accidentally spilled some extra birdseed. I’m normally a law-abiding citizen, but I have to admit that our town’s law against feeding deer is hard to swallow when the deer are so hungry they’ll eat anything they can find. I know the law is an attempt to reduce the extremely high number of car-deer crashes, but it’s still hard to see their struggles to survive right outside our warm and safe house. Watching nature so closely is an incredibly rewarding thing to do, but I’m also learning that I have to build up a wall in my heart to shield myself from the pain of seeing the darker sides of the natural world. That’s why I didn’t get angry when my husband accidentally dropped a big pumpkin on the way to the curb on trash day last week and left it beside the driveway. I’m usually the “don’t feed the deer” police in our house, but I have occasional lapses in judgment in the wintertime. So when I saw two deer fighting over the pumpkin, I might have accidentally chopped it up into smaller pieces and scattered them around to spread the wealth. So sue me.