Thursday, December 29, 2022

Looking back, bittersweetly

This past week we, with much of the Midwest and Northeast US as well as Canada, endured the passage of a severe weather system which produced a "bomb cyclone," a hurricane-like storm caused by the sudden collision of a tropical air mass with an arctic cold front. Hot air rapidly rises and creates an area of very low pressure  encircled by high winds and intense precipitation. In low light before the storm struck I obtained a few poor photos of feeder birds.

Mourning Dove and Northern Cardinal feasting on safflower seeds

A couple of views of White-throated Sparrows, which have been strangely scarce so far:

House Finches:

We were spared the blizzards endured by most of the northern areas. Instead we had heavy rain, followed by a precipitous drop in temperature from the mid 60s°F (18°C) to the low single digits. High winds toppled trees which fell on power lines, causing widespread loss of electrical service. Luckily, we only had brief power interruptions. On the morning before Christmas Day our outside thermometer recorded temperatures as low as 5°F ( -14°C).  

Cazador, our daughter's Standard Poodle, was reluctant to go out in the cold:

The weather was so vicious that we could not take our daily walks. One day I didn't even venture out to put up the feeders. I reflected on fair-weather header images provided by some of these feeder birds, among the 72 species I have identified on or from the property since we moved here just a year ago--

Northern Cardinal: 

White-throated Sparrow:

Black-capped Chickadee:

Tufted Titmouse in snow:

Christmas morning was clear but still very cold (10°F/-12°C). Temperatures remained below freezing the rest of the week, but winds were relatively calm and the sun shone brightly. Shooting through the window glass, the sun helped sharpen my photos. 

A male Dark-eyes (Slate-colored) Junco posed atop the granite ledge:

Late afternoon sun displayed the brown plumage of a female Junco and brought out the colors and patterns of the granite

A White-breasted Nuthatch perched nearby...

..and headfirst, descended the wall:

Street scenes along our walk

View of sunset from our bedroom window, December 28:

Christmas time can be a mix of joy and sadness. Memories were ignited by a couple of old photos, of our granddaughters (now 17 and 18 years old)...

...and my first date with MaryLou, 69 years ago on December 27, 1953, a  Dinner Dance at The Meadowbrook in New Jersey. (Not much came of it as we did not start going steady until well over a year later). Betty and Tom, respectively classmates of MaryLou and me, occupied the middle seats at the table. My dear sister Ellen "fixed me up" with MaryLou, whose brother Larry was seated on the left. He was my classmate in High School and College-- Ellen was his date. We all were fast friends. Sadly, of the six in our party, we two are the only survivors.  

We did not participate in late evening extended family gatherings, as  respiratory diseases are running rampant. We have been sheltering in our Casita and masking up even when interacting with the immediate family. I do not want illness to interfere with upcoming CT and MRI examinations which will gauge my progress and help plot a future course for chemotherapy, now as I conclude my 10th 3-week treatment cycle (two weeks on, one week off). 

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Warm light on a cold afternoon

This week was rainy and cold. The wind whipped in from the NW and most days were cloudy. Medical appointments and procedures had to be observed despite the adverse weather conditions. The rain erased all evidence of he snow before temperatures plunged into the low 20s°F ( -6°C). I would be lying if I said I did not miss winter in our former home in south Florida.

Photographic opportunities with critters were mostly limited to those accessible through the windows of our "front" door, which faces north. The feeder area is now in deep shade until about an hour before the sun dips below the horizon. One afternoon, just before sunset, the low sun burst through the clouds and a Carolina Wren cast long shadows as it explored the leaf litter along the granite outcrop:

The warm light bathing the yard  belied the bitter cold temperature:

Earlier in the week, it was evident that the old buck had assembled at least three does and a yearling fawn into his "harem." The bucks and does form separate groups until the breeding season (rut), which occurs in late fall and early winter. Does are often accompanied by their fawns. Female fawns may stay with their mothers for two years, while young bucks usually depart after the first year (iPhone photo): 

Rather than gathering a true harem, the buck actually defends his territory against other males and services a number of females which co-exist there during breeding season. Several times in late summer and early autumn, I have counted groups of up to six does and  two yearling fawns around the property. One morning I startled a herd of 12 which burst out of the wooded area next to the house.

While this buck may not mate with all the does in his territory, nearly 100% of those two years and older will become pregnant by around February. Mortality of fawns is high and only about 60-80% survive into spring.

I recognized this doe as "Notch," named for the split in her left ear. She was the mother of one of the two fawns I photographed as spotted little "Bambi's" on August 6, on the back acres of the property: 

Incidentally, also back in August, I captured this image of my reflection (wearing my wide-brimmed hat against the sky) in the eye of "Notch," as I photographed her from the fence at the edge of the cliff above her: 

This fawn posing with "Notch" is a male, as evidenced by his raised and squared forehead with slight knobs (pedicles) where antlers will emerge in a few months:

He was browsing on some sort of fungus or growth on the bark of this dead branch. Also note his rich fur coat:

Judging by the facial pattern and antler configuration, this one is the same buck which visited our bird feeders last week:

The third doe in the group may have been Bambi's grandmother::

White-tailed Deer in the northern reaches of the US and southern Canada are larger and more robust than those we had in Florida. Yet they still appear to be such delicate and fragile-appearing animals.

As with many animal species, the larger size is an adaptation for survival in the colder climate. During the winter they also develop a dark and thicker coat of long guard hairs and a dense undercoat, which absorbs more sunlight and traps body heat. I noticed that, in the spring, many looked malnourished, with ribs showing. I learned more from this reference: How Do Deer Survive Harsh Winter Weather?

"Deer also alter their behavior to survive the winter. They are generally less active, sometimes dropping their metabolism by half, which allows them to save energy and eat less. Deer may physically hunker down during particularly harsh weather—not moving for days, even to eat— which is made possible by relying on their fat stores.

"Deer also typically seek areas that are more sheltered in which to rest and eat, such as stands of coniferous trees that maintain their needles during the winter and allow snow to build up, both of which help provide some wind resistance and possibly cover. These areas, sometimes known as “deer yards,” may encompass many—if not hundreds—of acres, providing shelter for lots of deer. "

Amber sunset on December 19:

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The buck stopped here

It has been a weak week for birding, Lots of distractions as Covid-19 has hit the household for the second time. We all had it in January, but now so far only one of the granddaughters has been ill and tested positive. We are isolating in our Casita and wear masks when there is need for interaction with other family members or visitors. Weather has been generally cold and windy, with a snowstorm to start the week, and another expected to hit today. Exciting World Cup matches demanded our attention.

Despite the limitations, I did obtain a few photos of common feeder birds and a buck with white stockings, through the windows. Most colorful was a male Cardinal foraging for seeds scattered under the feeder...

...and, quizzically examining a Mourning Dove:

This is the Mourning Dove, in better focus:

The cardinal's mate was on the platform feeder, eating safflower seeds, in bad light:

Then, the sun shone through the clouds:

A Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco perched on the fence:

A group of six female White-tailed Deer have been browsing on grass in the clear-cut area behind the home. We were startled to look out our main door and find a large buck next to the bird feeders, staring straight at us:

He was a bit battle-scarred:

Suddenly the buck caught sight of one of the does and hurried off to chase her into the woodland (notice the color pattern of his front legs): 

The doe's companions ran alongside her, bounding erratically between the trees and across the grass prairie on a neighbor's property. The old buck gave up the chase and took up watch at the edge of the open area:

I noticed that he has white "stockings" on his front legs, which I think is rather unusual. During a cursory internet search, I could not find any discussion or images of such a color pattern in this species:

The first snowstorm of the season dropped about 3-5 inches (5-12 cm) of the white stuff. This is  a view through the porthole window in the computer room of our Casita:

Our heated bird bath was frozen solid when the temperatures dropped to near 20°F (-6°C) in the morning, after the snow stopped:

The covered swimming pool took on scalloped edges:

The sun came out and we could see Hartford in the distance:

View through the kitchen porthole:

Just before the sun dipped below the horizon, the bare treetops were bathed in gold:

With the lake now crusting over with ice, I have had a hard time finding my weekly reflection. The front door of the main house  provided a nice Christmas card look, along with a reflection of the blue sky:

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display