Monday, February 12, 2018

A Rough Life

 Every summer Mom and I enjoyed watching a Carolina Wren build a nest and raise a brood. We came to calling her "Carol" (creative we were not). I've written about her a number of times here on the blog. Just use the search bar.

 Carolina Wrens are common in the Miami Valley year-round and Tom and I have viewed one a number of times near the feeder this winter.

 A week or so ago, I heard a sound in the garage when I was getting ready to leave. I could not discover what had made it but I surmised it was a bird. They love to fly in when the door is open, sit in the rafters and then find themselves trapped there when the door is closed. Even if I see one and try to guide it out, they generally get confused and stay in the rafter where it must feel safe.

Last Thursday (02/08/18) as I returned in the car and opened the garage door, I saw what looked like a small ball sitting in a puddle on the floor. As I drove nearer, I saw that it was a bird.

 I figured it would move as I drove in. But when I got out of the car I found that it had not budged, even though the tires must have passed within inches.

 The bird sat in this wet spot - melted snow - and had its eyes closed and did not move as I approached. Obviously the bird was in poor shape.

 I picked it up - saw that it was a Carolina Wren - and carried it out to the wooden bench we have near the back door. I sat the bird down gently in the sunlight. It was warmer there, though the temperature never rose above the upper 20's. As my fingers warmed the bird, it made feeble chirps - not so audible as ones I could feel.

 Within a minute the bird opened its eyes. I could tell it was coming around. Had it been trapped in the garage for some days, without food and water. Was it merely weak?

 The bird looked at me as if to offer thanks. I came inside but checked back a few minutes later. The bird was gone.

 I appreciate my close encounter with a creature that would never normally let me get close. I hope this summer to find a Carolina Wren nesting nearby. I trust their numbers will continue to increase. I can already count one.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It's looking a lot like ... winter

 Snow was predicted when I went to bed so it was no surprise to find the morning quiet and muffled as I lay in bed about 6 am. I listened for a car or a school bus to pass. Nothing. Eventually I got up and looked out the window. The ground was shrouded in white and in the sky white flakes still drifted lazily down.

 My phone lay beside me. A weather alarm was issued during the night for a "heavy precipitation event". I heard nothing. At 3 am I am as sound asleep as I get.

 I ate breakfast and counted cars passing on Clayton. One. Two. Three. That was all. School was cancelled and many people apparently had called in to work. Almost nothing was moving.

 We had just three inches of snow. No big amount. And it brings my winter total to a mere 7.5". And yet this is the most wintry we've looked all year.

 At 7 am I stepped outside ...

 The world is utterly without sound but for the whisper-soft tinkling of snow flakes as they hit the ground. It is almost imperceptible, an almost-silent background static that I me barely aware of. It is there only if I stop and listen. Like the ticking of a clock, take away your concentration for a moment and it is gone. It is merely background.

 This maple by the kitchen window is where we've hung most of our birdhouses and two feeders. It is too early for the birds. They are still asleep. This is a good morning to take it slow.

 Looking south from the back porch, the pines are covered in snow. Flakes stick to my eyelashes, dart about like summer insects.They bite in a new way.

 The driveway lies hidden beneath this new blanket. Rising up in the distance are trees more familiar when it is light. Now they are a bit sinister, even frightening. Unlike recent nights the snow is trackless. But it is also new. I usually note birds, rabbits and what I guess is a kitten, hereabouts for several nights. I have seen none of them making tracks.

 Last summer Mom and I bought a picnic table. It was something she was proud of, something she had always wanted. Only Tom and I have used it. Next summer we'll sit there again and share a whole watermelon.

 It is soon getting light and I have my weather to report. By noon I'll begin to see patches of blue in the north sky. A short while later the sun will break through. And, as I type these last lines, I hear a plow pull into my driveway and begin clearing the snow. It is a neighbor, surely, but I have no idea who. He does the work out of love and expects nothing in return.

This is a wonderful place to live. The sky buries us but a neighbor is at the ready to dig us out.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The winter ... so far

 Our winter has been cold so far, much below normal, but the snowfall has been minimal (3-1/4" in December; 3" so far in January). We've had both record lows (-14° on 01/02) and record highs (59° on 01/10). It seems as though this winter can't make up its mind.

 Overall, December was 1.5° below normal and January-to-date is running -5.2° through yesterday. Compare that to January 2017 when we ended the month a whopping 7.3° above normal). We're dry, too. December was 34%  below normal. January is running 13% below normal through today.

Here's a visual look at Pinehaven since winter began ...

 12/09 - First snow

12/09 - Very little need of a snow shovel 

12/27 - Jack Frost works the windows 

We started the day at -2°.

12/31: A view down the road 

12/31: At least the sun is shining 

12/31: Deer tracks (I believe) came right up to the house 

01/01: Overnight the temperature dipped to -8° 

01/05: The morning's low was zero and we had a
power outage that lasted nearly four hours 

 Tom and I sat on the sofa under a blanket. I fired up two kerosene space heaters and put two sawdust logs in the fireplace. The power, out at 8 am, came back on just before noon. Scary times. I worry mostly about the pipes freezing.

01/06: Cold enough? It bottomed out at -9° last night 

 01/14: Taken just as the sun rose above the distant horizon

01/14: Just 45 minutes later, the sun was muted behind clouds 
Temperature: +2°

01/17: Whose tracks are these?
Those in the know suggest squirrels which jump from spot to spot 

01/18: Sunset. It reached freezing today and seemed almost "warm" 

01/18: Sunset. Walking back the driveway after getting the mail

 So, meteorological winter (December through February) has passed the half-way point, though barely. Another forty days and the winter of 2017-18 will be history. It is so far showing itself to be an expensive one. Energy costs are killing me. For the first three weeks of January I have used over $385 worth of electricity (I read the meter weekly). With a week and a half to go, the final bill will be close to $575 unless things warm. And likely they will. Today (01/20) it is already 41° at 1:45 pm. The next two days may see readings around 50°. So a January thaw is underway.

 Just in time, too. Those rock hard nights of early January are melting into spring's hope. I think of the daffodil bulbs Tom and I planted in the fall. Are they feeling the influence of this pleasant day? Without eyes and underground, have they nevertheless noticed that the days are longer? Their signal is not visual.

 I'm beginning to feel it, too.