Saturday, March 29, 2014

First Signs of Spring on a Sunday Afternoon

This past Sunday afternoon my dear wife encouraged me to take the afternoon between church services to enjoy the warmer (relatively) temperatures and head out for a little trip to see what might be stirring in the sunny weather. Compared to the cooler temperatures which seem to be lingering on, it seemed pretty warm, but thankfully I still threw the gloves in the car when I left... the breeze still stole most of the warmth from the sun's rays.

male Downy Woodpecker

I headed first to Jacob's Wood, our local woodlot/park in town to see what might be stirring.  I heard the familiar local sounds of the Chickadees, Blue Jays, a Cardinal, and then saw a nice bright male Downy Woodpecker.  The crusty but deep snow in the forest was still quite deep and hindered me from following quietly and quickly.  But at one point the little bird flew into a dead pine tree right where I was standing.  I lost sight of it and was searching all over till I realized it was almost right above me.  I couldn't get a good picture, though it would have been a great, full frame shot. Although it knew it was there, it stayed on the opposite side of the branch, taking quick peaks at me.  This next picture was the best shot I could get.  Then the crusty snow gave way as I shifted and as I fell a good foot through the snow, the little guy startled away.

Downy Woodpecker

As I walked the outer trail loop, I noticed fresh work of a Pileated Woodpecker in a big live Pine tree. Though we're in their usual range, I think they tend to like more secluded woods than this. I've only ever seen one before out here, though briefly as it flew across a roadway as I drove. I'll have to go back and check soon... it would be great if there was a pair taking up residence there, though I won't count on it.

Pileated Woodpecker's work.

Pileated woodpeckers make these holes with an aggressive woodworking that leaves wood chips the size of quarters. With a series of holes like these, they're usually digging for their favourite food - carpenter ants. They actually listen for activity in side the trees and then start their seemingly brain numbing excavation to reach them deep inside.

I left this little forest and headed east of town to a closed road that crosses Fairchild's Creek.  I noticed birds drinking and bathing in the snow melt waters running down the eroding old gravel road.  It was a large flock of Cedar Waxwings.  They were flying between a big stand of old spruces some farmer had planted for a windbreak for the farmhouse years ago, and a large area covered with vines with berries a plenty.

Cedar Waxwings
Cedar Waxwing

A large group of very plump Robins was also enjoying the same opportunity.

American Robin

Another group of House Finches were busy there as well, though they were not feeding on the berries.  But the males were heartily singing away with their rambling song.

male House Finch

I finally made it down the Creek which was running fast with the waters of little snow which had managed to melt till then.  On the icy edge of the creek's bank was a deer skull, likely the victim of the cold, snowy winter.

Deer skull

Heading back, I heard the familiar scolding of a Red Squirrel.  It was nice to hear that sound as an indication of the spring warmth making it active, but also because I've not seen one about our area before. I'm accustomed to seeing them more up north.

Red Squirrel

A little further up the path, an Eastern Chipmunk also chattered at me and then nicely posed for a picture.

Eastern Chipmunk

As I arrived home and warmed up inside in the kitchen, I caught site of another welcome spring sign... a Song Sparrow had joined the crowd at the bird feeder in the back yard.  The House Sparrows are also back, being noticeably missing this winter, having been replaced with a large group of regularly visiting American Tree Sparrows. Even today, Juncos are still feeding on the ground - a sign that winter is still not gone?  I took a quick shot through the sliding door window instead of going back into what had become a window, cold afternoon as the sun had lost its warming strength.

First Song Sparrow of the season!

Till next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!

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