Posted by: atowhee | December 21, 2017

MCMINNVILLE: Dec. 21,  Shortest Day Shortened

It was already inevitably a short day, but by 3PM fog clogged the valley and it was dusk already. Yet the dog and I did find a few fog-braving birds at Wennerberg Park. However, most the action was in the frigid hours right after dawn.

At 715 AM it was 25 degrees.  Bird baths were frozen over, frost lined every exposed edge outdoors. Tiny needles of ice crossed the blades of lawn grass. Tufts of moss or fallen leaves were etched. As the sun finally made its appearance long after 8 AM roof ice and hoar on bushes sublimated to steam and rose into the cold sky.  Outside to feed the birds, a damp cloud formed each time I exhaled.  In the low sky to the southeast a promise of dawn could be seen—a faint peachy glow low below the dark gray.

By 725 AM the sky has lost its darkness and turned to dull pewter.

745 AM Thin clouds in the southeast tinted with pale yellow.  Then sparrow family arrives—at least eight juincos, a Song Sparrow.  He’s very dark likely from some summer habitat to the north where it is even wetter and darker than here.  There’s a single young Golden-crowned Sparrow without the bold markings he or she will need for the coming spring breeding season.

750 AM First Chestnut-backed Chickadee arrives.  Often there’s a pair, sometimes as many as four at a time.  They never consort with the single Black-capped even though he is a local and they are out-of-towners certainly. As I contribute more food the Bushtits ignore me and land less than five feet from my head.  It’s the first of many raids they will make today. Hit and fly.  I have filled the suet log and re-hung it.  I keep the tree icing (or bark butter) inside so it will not turn to stone and be impossible to spread into the cavities.  As soon as I am back inside the juncos return.  The chickadee flits in for a mouth of suet and departs.  Mostly out small gleaners grab and run, not feeding in place. The larger birds—sparrows, finches, starlings, doves, jays, woodpeckers—will take a seat and dine until satisfied.

8 AM. It’s a still only 25.  The male Spotted Towhee arrives.  Even in the subdued light his orange is a bolder color than today’s sunrise.

804 AM  A single House Finch arrives on a hanging platform.  He clings to the edge and his hefty beak crushes one sunflower chip after another. All the while the finch is looking about and above, assuring himself there’s no lurking Cooper’s Hawk. The single Black-capped Chickadee arrives, grabs, flies off. On the ground juncos are near the Golden-crowned Sparrow, twice their size, looking huge for such a small bird.

811 AM  The first squirrel arrives.  The male Spotted Towhee makes his entry by stages, coming out of the hydrangea tangle along the fence.  His tail is fanned out, the white spots signaling the world in some avian code I don’t understand.

813 AM  First of the starlings hits the suet log.  By afternoon there will be fifteen of the greedy guts. Now a second squirrel appears.

816 AM Repeat raid by the Bushtit Gang.

825 AM  26 degrees and not a bird in sight.  Fright?  Chance?

827 AM Juncos back in force, maybe thirty or more.  Now three starlings.  Black-capped Chickadee in and out again.

841 AM Bewick’s Wren moving around on the ground, eating, jumping, flitting to new dining spot.  His long, thin tail waves about like a baton. The lateral barring sends a wren message to all  There is a word for this bird: sprightly.

842 AM The local House Sparrow village has awakened from brushy roost and arrives for breakfast. Invasives invade as the starling count climbs to five and two collared-doves flutter down to a feeding platform.

849 AM At least two Chestnut-backed Chickadees are at various feeders, hit and fly, with no discernible pattern or consistent target.

920 AM The Audubon’s Warbler finally arrive.

940 AM The dog and I go for a walk in the neighborhood.  The scrub-jays have finally left their cozy roosts and are on treetops, facing the sun, collecting the thin solar energy.  Hoar covers nearly every surface though the sun is rapidly removing the ice and replacing it with droplets of water.

WELCOME TO THE HOAR SHOWD21-HOAR2D21-HOAR3D21-HOAR4D21-HOAR5D21-HOAR7D21-HOAR8D21-HOAR9Good fences make fine art…bet Robert Frost often saw New England frost like this.ICA-1ICA-2This is sublimation beyond Freud’s wildest imaginings:SBLIMGuess which side of this mound faces the sun to the south…SBLIM2


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