Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Winter Gatherings

Here at Hidden Lake a brisk snowfall gently dropped a small accumulation across a white-to-black melting landscape showing a backdrop of black tree trunks and a winding ribbon of dark gray water, curving between lighter gray ice packs and shore-lined edges of disappearing white.
As the accumulation became difficult to ignore on our deck, all the reds and grays and browns of various birds were a frenzy of feathers all wanting the choice pieces of black sunflower seeds scattered by hand and foot across the wood. 
The green small suet feeder hanging from an outside corner of our dining room cedar siding was a choice hub of pounding as well. Whichever bird has the longest bill also stays on the suet as four other species of woodpeckers await their turn after the Northern Flicker has its fill first and then flies away.
Next in line is that wonderful winter rarity: the Red-headed woodpecker. Only one of the two redheads who came regularly every day together comes alone now and often just minutes before complete darkness here after 6pm. Where does the singular beauty of this individual go all these long cold nights?
Out in the open water a lone male Mute swan spends his almost his entire day making sure all the honking Canada geese make their stay here a temporary one, chasing one and then another in low aerial circuits past our shore and around the lake in wide oval circles. What endurance to keep this going the entire day and even into the nighttime hours. After doing so, he often lands with a long skid across the ice and into the open water. I rather think he enjoys it all!
Today a large white-capped and brown bird stood alone on an ice edge, plunging with talons stretched into the dark surface water, attempting to grab an obvious morsel. The Bald eagle is not a common visitor here but I believe it comes more often than I suppose.  After sitting at the ice's edge for a short while, up come those 6 foot wings and with some effortless beats the majestic bird wings up and down the lake's edge into a large overhanging oak tree.
Also along the ever changing edge between ice and water comes a new threesome of finely detailed white, brown,black, and tan colored duck, all with feathered hoods raised as if in a show of prideful beauty. These are Hooded mergansers. Two males vying for the attention of one other not so generously colored. They circle her to show off and she tries to get around them. I first spotted their winter gathering yesterday.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don't Forget to Feed the Birds!

Another gray February day, Groundhog Day?  Who cares?  Everyone feeds on consumer superficiality, yeah. Just a pretense for more insecurity about where life is taking you, and it is taking you directly forward, like riding a bicycle, moving those petals around and around to take you somewhere though you may like going in circles too, less adventurous but more comforting.

I'm here at my kitchen table in early morning hours waiting for another glimpse of  a rare winter visitor to my feeders, a Red-headed woodpecker no less. I haven't seen a single one since moving to my hidden lake retreat two months and a year ago. But one suddenly showed up about a week ago and has been a regular here almost single day since I first laid eyes on its dramatic few colors. What a beautiful bird!

At 9:53 I was shocked out of my decaffeinated coffee drinking by the sudden sighting of not one, but TWO, yes TWO Red-heads on MY deck!  I was overcome with staring at them. One flew off the suet feeder and the other woodpecker followed in chase. One left for good, while the other began exploring the upper limbs of our giant lakeside willow tree. Then it would come back and forth to a large shallow bowl of sunflower seeds I placed on top of one of our deck posts. The red, black, and white beauty comes into the bowl over and over again.

12:12pm-guess what?  Both RED heads are back!  Amazing, and they're not chasing each other in this freezing weather. One of the woodpeckers has some grayish head feathers instead of red around the eyes, and the other is totally red-headed. A mated pair from this year, one adult and one youngster? One male, one female, or two of each? Who knows by their behavior? But its all good, I'm here, they're here and everything seems at peace now. So don't forget to feed the birds!