nature


It had been a windy and cloudy day, but as the evening wore on the wind began to die down.  We were fishing as the air became still.  Eagles were flying overhead and the crappies were biting.  The dark clouds were still above but the sun moved below them lighting up the opposite shore.  The leaves were full on some of the trees and yet others had only begun to leaf out, filtering the sunlight as it came through the trees.  The low light and the calmness created a beautiful reflection of the end of a spring (finally!) day.

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It was a cold and wintry day last Sunday that even included a snowfall.  We were inside looking out and not enjoying this winter weather in mid-May.  But it seemed to invigorate all the birds in the area as they were coming in and out of the yard, looking for food on the ground and in the feeders.  We put some orange slices in a hanging feeder and realized they were a magnet for the birds.  This Baltimore oriole became very vigilant in guarding what he saw as “his” oranges.  There were a number of Rose-breasted grosbeaks that challenged him, and only occasionally won the challenge.  All these birds were a welcome colorful sight on the cold drab day, and a delight to watch.

As we were exploring the Namekagon Wildlife Barrens in northwestern Wisconsin we saw many bluebird houses distributed throughout the area.  Numerous agencies and individuals have worked hard to be sure the birds have access to good nesting areas.  At one road junction we stopped and watched this tree swallow as it flitted in and out of the house, flying to the trees nearby, then coming back to the house.  He was accompanied by a female which came and went many times too.  What a delight to let time stand still and watch their activities and absorb this little bit of spring!

Last weekend brought yet another snowfall (which we are all hoping is the last large snow of this winter season).  It was a beautiful snow – large flakes that drifted down and settled on everything.  The tree branches were outlined in snow, showing their structure.  The woods were quiet except for the sound of my snowshoes; with snow depths up to 20 inches snowshoes were required.  I love being out in nature during a snowfall.  Everything is magically softened and the world is enveloped in a special quiet.

The cold and snow make us pause.  We can’t hurry and just do the things we normally do — walking on ice-covered paths takes attention and concentration, and five to ten minutes are the minimum just to bundle up to step out in sub-zero temperatures.  But pausing gives us time to observe and to appreciate.  This bubble becomes frozen in a near instant, with crystals forming on the inside and refracting the morning light as the sun rises over the new fallen snow.  Many other bubbles broke as they landed, too fragile to absorb an impact on the soft snow.  And even this bubble was short-lived.  The wind picked up and it shattered quickly; how happy I was that it commanded my attention for a short span.

I spent an hour watching the rivalry play out at our bird feeder the other day.  There were black capped chickadees and red breasted nuthatches coming and going freely, getting their fill of seed prior to the cold snap moving in.  Suddenly they would disperse, and one of the red bellied woodpeckers would take over the feeder.  Their size and aggressiveness would send the smaller birds away.  But don’t rule them out…the chickadees and nuthatches would fly in quickly, grab their seed, and leave just as quickly.  Eventually the woodpeckers would move to the nearby trees, and the smaller birds would reign over the seeds.  It was fascinating to watch, and it seemed that everyone had their time at the feeder.

Take a rainstorm that makes everything wet, drop the temperature so the rain changes to sleet, the sleet changes to ice, and then drop the temperature more and it snows.  And the snow clings to everything – the branches, the oak leaves, the pine trees, the sedges.  Our world became a winter wonderland with everything coated with white snow.  It was stunning, and it was so easy to appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature in winter.

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