A world all dressed in white

The leafless deciduous trees and bushes were dark, black, in a world of white.  Evergreen trees, the pines and spruce and cedar in our yard, even appeared dark.  Birds were jots of color amid the white and black and the gray overhead.  There were cardinals and blue jays, house and tree sparrows in brown, goldfinches in yellow, a dingy yellow, with black wings and tails, chickadees in black and gray and white, titmice and juncos in gray, white-breasted nuthatches, mourning doves, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers flying back and forth between our bird feeders and the ground below and the trees and bushes in the yard around.

There were more birds coming to our feeders that morning than before the snow came.  How many more?  I don’t know.  I could only count the birds at and around the feeders at one time, not all the birds flitting in and out.  But the level of feed in the feeders went down much faster than days before the snow fell.

Not all birds come to bird feeders of course. A few crows flew by overhead as I was looking out the window at the snow and the birds coming to the feeders.  A small flock of Canada geese, a skein of seven, flew past.  I’ve never seen crows or Canada geese at bird feeders though geese will come to corn scattered on the ground.

A red-tailed hawk flew in and landed in a tree across the road.  It didn’t come near the feeders and after a few minutes it flew away.  I’ve never seen a red-tailed hawk at a feeder but I’ve had people tell me they have.  Perhaps the red-tails around feeders are after squirrels.

Cooper’s hawks are different, and sharp-shinned hawks.  They prey on smaller birds.  I’ve seen a Cooper’s hawk fly through our yard, past the feeders in front of the house.  I’ve seen a Cooper’s hawk land and perch in a tree in front of our house, a tree where it could see the bird feeders.

We went for a drive the day after the snow fell, traveling on county roads.  Snowplows had been out but there was still snow on those roads.  There were birds, too, a few small flocks of horned larks, some in the fields but more along the sides of the roads.  There the plows had exposed grain that had fallen from trucks and wagons during harvest.  We saw tree sparrows and juncos clinging to the snow tasseled heads of the weeds tall enough to jut up above the snow and on the snow around the weeds.  We hoped to see snow buntings or Lapland longspurs, sometime winter visitors from the north.

We stopped, got out of the car and walked along the edge and into a woods, looking for birds and for tracks of other animals.  Tracks in the snow would let us know of animals that are active at night, animals we seldom see.  Snow was still falling, lightly.  Tracks we found were blurred.  But we were able to recognize those of squirrels and a rabbit, deer and a fox or a dog.  We were also able to enjoy the cleanness and quiet of a world dressed in white.

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