Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winter Casualty

A few days ago in the middle of the afternoon Blondie excitedly called me away from my desk to point out a red bellied woodpecker that had just arrived at one of the feeders on the lake side of the house. Of course it was gone by the time I got up to take a look. Being a rare visitor here in Northern Minnesota, it is a colorful and refreshing sighting in what is becoming a very harsh winter. It is worth getting away from work for a few minutes to have a look.

This year the weather has been more akin to the winters of decades past. The bird returned to the sunflower seeds on several occasions following that first visit and seemed to be a bit odd in its behavior. Very puffed up against the cold and much searching through the seeds, but little ingestion of anything.

Sometime after midnight last night, I flipped on the outside light to have a look at the suet feeder that is placed in one of the back yard oaks. I was hoping to see a flying squirrel - there have been as many as three at a time using that added food source this winter. Instead of a squirrel, there was the red belly perched on the chunk of suet, head tucked under wing, shivering through the minus mid-teen temperature of the night. I thought it was odd behavior again and likely portended the demise of the woodpecker.

In the first light of morning the bird was still clinging to the suet - dead and frozen. One can only speculate as to the cause of death, but examination revealed a very emaciated condition.

Although the light is returning, winter is still deadly deep and unforgiving.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Random rambling about snow and birds and nomenclature and the inability to gather, focus, and record thoughts about same.

The birds were out and about in the middle of our biggest snowfall of the winter, Orko. I'm undecided about whether or not this winter storm naming thing works for me. I guess it's maybe a way of personifying the weather? Getting the average American to somehow become closer to nature ? Spicing it up a bit at the Weather Channel?
I just wonder how far this might go........  Snow shower Sasha.......  Snow squall Bernice......  Snow flurry Butch ?   Could get real stupid real quick.

Orko produced about sixteen inches of snow. The birds were at the feeder, along with the grey squirrels in the midst of the heaviest part of the storm. As usual, the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, the single insane junco, and the redpols were not too enamoured of my photographic interference. The squirrels of course ran for their lives when I stepped onto the deck, their collective unconscious no doubt remembering that I have enjoyed them as a main course, braised in mushroom and red wine sauce. But there was one single redpol that just didn't give a rip that I was there. Determined to get all the fuel that might be required to ride Orko out, it sat there eating it's head off while I snapped free handed at about five feet away. Birds are usually too twitchy for me, so thanks, Mr. pol.

I don't remember too much after that. Plowing the driveway in the old Jeep. Smelling the sweet nectar of exhaust fumes. Vague thoughts about replacing the exhaust system. Shovel, shovel, shovel, shovel...... Somehow, all the snow removal was accomplished, deck cleared and bird feeders refilled.

Orko was a mixed bag of experience. I enjoyed the warm respite from the minus 20 plus temperatures of the previous few weeks, but I can do without quite so much precipitation, especially all in one heap. Now the forecast calls for a return this weekend to the arctic blasts.  Maybe we could name the next really cold spell something like......hmmm... High Pressure Ridge Ass Puckerer.  Sounds about right.

Damn!  Open water is a long ways off.