EARLY ON IN THE NEW YEAR
And a bit from late in the old year, too
The transition from 2014 to 2015 was seamless. The weather is relatively mild for a change ("mild" being no single digit temperatures yet) and in spite of the snow we've had already, we just had a couple days of rain. 2014 saw us out with snow and 2015 saw us in with rain and fog. I'll take it!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
This time of year there is a lot going on in the outdoors and plenty to look at and appreciate in our locale. Winter is a time of sleep for many creatures and plants, but if you feed birds you know how active feeders can be.
We often get wild turkeys (I should say living vacuum cleaners) gleaning the seeds that fall from hanging feeders or hopping up on the table where I throw black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, and shelled corn. They are HUGE birds! I allow them some time to get a fair feeding then chase them. Last year they got so accustomed to me running out the door shouting, "Git! Go on!" and waving my arms that they hardly moved away; maybe they retreated 20 feet or so then came right back.
Wild turkeys were almost driven to extinction because they are such an excellent food source. They've made a nice comeback, however, and are now living in every state except Alaska. Yes, even Hawaii has wild turkeys. They were introduced to the islands as early as 1788 and are now quite common.
Pretty much everyone knows what a wild turkey looks like, but surprisingly few see them in their wild habitat. The guy below is a "Tom" (male) and he has a beard to prove it. See the tuft of feathers that look like hair at the base of his neck? That is the beard. The father is no help whatsoever in raising the young. The babies follow their mommy hen until they are old enough to strike out on their own in a group with other youngsters. Turkeys are strong fliers but anecdotal experience tells me they prefer to run like the wind as long as that works. They are wonderful birds.
Read more here:
|Turkey for dinner again????|
|Taking advantage of the local buffet luncheon|
|These are in their natural habitat. They are so thorough when scratching to find food that the ground is bare when they're done.|
I have a bunch of pictures of winter birds for a post a little later, but here are a couple for your enjoyment.
First is the White-throated Sparrow, a pretty small songbird with a bright white throat (DUH!) There is a relatively small swath of North America where they don't occur, but they are a common sight in the majority of the USA and Canada. Their song is described as sounding like "oh-sweet-canada". These sparrows usually nest on the ground unless their first nest is destroyed by predators; then they will build higher up in a tree for a second try. Although common, they are declining in numbers.
Read more here:
|White-throated Sparrow showing the reason for it's name.|
The bird below is a Dark-eyed Junco, sometimes called a snowbird because they appear as winter set in. They are not to be confused with senior citizens who move to Florida!
Juncos are a kind of sparrow. They are ground feeders but can be seen at feeders. Ours are more often on the ground under the feeders cleaning up after the sloppy titmice and chickadees.
Read more here:
|This is a male - dark gray with a white belly and pink bill. Females are more brown, but color is variable and these birds in Oregon have tan on them.|
There is a lot of brown in winter but it isn't all dull and dreary. These graceful grasses grow by the road. The seeds are long gone but the lovely seed heads remain.
Some ferns are evergreen, others die off until springtime, and some live in a kind of half-sleep until awakend by the warming sun and milder temperatures.
I LOVE CATTAILS! They are a wetland plant that needs wet feet to thrive. They grow up to 10 feet in height and can become overbearing if not kept in check. They are a favorite home for Red-winged Blackbirds (see below the picture of cattails).
More info here: http://www.cattails.info/
The male Red-winged Blackbird is jet black with bright red and yellow wing bars. As much as we ohh and ahh over the males, I prefer the understate beauty of the females.
For more information on Red-winged Blackbirds, read this: