Let’s Get You Aired Out!

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently. ~Lewis Carroll

Icicles on my sunroom…pretty…for a short time.

Today was the first in a welcome string of warm days that will help melt the massive amount of snow that has accumulated here over the past two weeks. In fact, the forecast predicts that our temperature will climb above freezing every day for the next two weeks. I could jump for joy!

Some people love snow. I’m not one of them. Sure, I can appreciate the beauty of a fresh snow and the purifying feeling of breathing cold winter air. But I can do that for one or two days and then I’m done for the year. Once the pristine white snow has transformed into dirty ice chunks, I’m so over it.

One of the prairies at Wildwood Metropark, under a cerulean February sky

But despite those feelings, in most winters I manage to get myself outside regularly for birding or walking in the woods. Not so much this year. I partly blame my new jigsaw puzzle obsession, but I’ve settled into a routine of keeping myself busy indoors and not even thinking about venturing outside. But that’s not good for my physical or mental health, so I’m very grateful for this warmup. Today I skipped out early on a Zoom meeting so I could get myself out into the sunshine for a much-needed walk. As an old friend told me once, “Let’s get you aired out!”

I headed a couple miles down the road to my nearest metropark, Wildwood Preserve. This popular Toledo park has many miles of hiking and biking trails. It can get crowded on nice days like today, so I headed into the woods where I knew the trails would still be snow-covered and that would discourage most walkers. And aside from an immortal 20-something who went fearlessly jogging past me in the uneven snow, there was hardly anyone out there. And I had a wonderful time. I walked slowly and stopped often to look for barred owls and pileated woodpeckers. Both of these species nest in this park, so there’s a decent chance of running into them if you spend enough time to listen and look.

I didn’t find either of them today, but I found evidence of the pileated woodpeckers. These freshly-excavated holes appear to be slightly squarish, one of the signatures of a pileated woodpecker. Just a short distance past that first tree, I found some older holes that were definitely made by this species.

Freshly-excavated woodpecker feeding holes
Older pileated woodpecker holes — note the distinctly rectangular shape

In case you’re not familiar with this bird, it’s the largest woodpecker we have in this part of the world, measuring about 16-19″ long. It’s always a treat to see them, or even to hear their distinctive calls echoing through the woods.

This photo is a good comparison of the size of a pileated woodpecker to the white-breasted nuthatch on the other side of the tree. (Taken in my yard in 2014)

Although the pileateds were elusive today, I watched this much smaller female red-bellied woodpecker foraging up and down a tree snag. She was thorough in her inspection of every branch before flying off to try another.

Female red-bellied woodpecker possibly listening to the cawing of some crows nearby

There’s one particular section of this woodland trail that I especially like. As I come around a bend in the path, there’s a nice memorial bench on the right, and a deep ravine on the left. I often sit there just to listen to the rhythms of the woods — branches squeaking as they rub up against each other, tufted titmice calling out ‘peter-peter-peter!,’ and the water gurgling through the ravine.

I do like how shadows are longer at noon in the winter.

Long shadows just after noon today, due to the low angle of the sun in winter.

I came upon this scene, which I imagined to be fluffy snow cushions on tree stump chairs–perhaps in preparation for a meeting of the Woodland Critter Council?

And then a slightly odder sight…

The aftermath of a Saturday night Blue Jay kegger?

And you know I can’t finish without mentioning my first insect sighting of the new year — winter crane flies were out and about too.

My guess is winter crane fly, perhaps genus Trichocera

I’m glad I was able to motivate myself to get outside to enjoy this day. Even though I say I don’t like winter or snow, if I just give it a chance, there’s always something out there to appreciate. If you’re like me, I encourage you to give winter a chance too! #GetOutside #FindingTheJoy

And before I go, I’ll share this video from our Toledo Naturalists’ Association program this week. In 2014 I spent a week birding in Panama, and it was such a great experience that I invited the tour company to do a program for us. I thought it would be a great way to escape the snowy Ohio winter and pretend we were in the warmth of Central America looking at beautiful birds. So we took a one-hour virtual trip to Panama. During the past year I’ve had to overcome my strong reluctance to appear on camera, but I’ve come to terms with it now and think I did just fine. I hope you enjoy it. (Just pretend you don’t notice my pandemic non-haircut, LOL.)

14 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing. I love pileated woodpeckers. Was thrilled to see one in our ravine this time last year. I enjoy both your photography and your words so much, Kim. Thanks for sharing your talents with us!

  2. I’ve heard you aren’t supposed to eat yellow snow, but have no advice on blue snow! I thought you looked great on the video and I would never know you were wearing pandemic hair! I’m afraid I feel the same as you about snow, fine for a day or two but after that I’m over it. Glad to see that pileated woodpecker, they are large indeed. Apparently they used to hang out in the woods behind my parents’ house but I never got to see one. You could sure hear them pounding away on the trees though! Take care Kim.

  3. See Mary Holland’s blog; Jan 29, 21. I have not seen this coloration but have witnessed the rabbit cavorting activity and or signs of it on the trails in late winter. Something to do with males strutting their stuff, I presume. As I watched, a lot of leaping going on!

  4. Lewis Carroll: Maybe his snow in the UK “gently kissed” the trees; the snow in my area about 6 weeks ago broke off some of the white pine branches in my yard bigger than my forearm! If you learn what the blue stuff is, let us know!

    I watched the TNA Panama program – it was good.

  5. Nice post. What do you think the blue snow was? Close to the trail where someone could have thrown out a drink? But then again who drinks blue stuff? Curious…

    • Thanks, Teresa. Yes, the blue stuff was right beside the trail, but I don’t have any idea what it was. It makes me think of the blue stuff inside a freezer pack for a cooler, but I can’t figure why that would be out there in the middle of winter. And it could be, as you suggest, some kind of drink. I’ve seen many of them in bright colors like this.

  6. I loved this presentation. Thank you so much for sharing this. It made me want to pack my bags and go there. It also brought back lovely memories of our trip to Costa Rica a couple of years ago.
    I aired out here in my own garden yesterday. The snow is melting, I was sloshing about the garden looking for plants to emerge, dreaming of what is to come.

    • Glad you enjoyed the virtual trip to Panama, Lisa. I would love to go back there to look for dragonflies and other insects — they’ve sure got some interesting ones!

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