Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter Wonderland

This morning I looked out my kitchen window to a veritable winter wonderland. Our backyard rolls down into a hollow and then back up a steep bank, much of which is treed with mostly old oaks and some huge poplars. Since the angle of the sun and the shade of the woods keeps out most sun this time of year, it takes a long time for any accumulation of snow to melt completely. That has given the woods a kind of jigsaw puzzle look, one of those with greyed out pieces.

The trees in my particular view out that back window are huge old oaks and a couple of grandfather poplars, so there isn't much undergrowth because these trees keep it so shady much of the year that not much grows under them. Because of that you can see much of the animal activity that occurs there. Coupled with the fact that there is an open pasture just over the rise and a thick, thick stand of planted pines on the other side of the pasture, you have the perfect place for much of our local wildlife to cross safely from one stand of trees to the other. This time of year, the outside dogs are on the back porch, warm and snuggled up in their kennels, so there is nothing to disturb the morning comings and goings of the local population of wildlife.

This morning, I watched 6 deer pass from right behind my house, into the pasture and on into the pines. They are not afraid of much this time of year and since this is a fairly protected spot for them, they linger as they pass. Deer are browsers and so curious about anything that might be edible. I watched them stop and paw at the leaves looking for some little morsel underneath. Unfortunately, today I think all they might have found was frozen solid but maybe not. Even as cold as it is, under the warmth of decaying leaves, things are sprouting and alive. Just the other day, I raked aside a pile of leaves and found several acorns with long, pink sprouts splitting their shells. There are many, many acorns in the woods and they feed a host of wildlife, from wild turkeys to the deer. Squirrels here have no fear of going hungry, even if they forget where they buried their own stashes, with the bounty available to them.

We also have several pecan trees in our backyard and the bluejays love them. There were not many pecans on the trees this year but high in the branches, the jays find the occasional nut and it is always interesting to watch them trying to crack them. I counted 9 jays on the tree just outside the window and more flying back and forth between that tree and two of the other ones. Flitting, bright blue birds on a morning as cold as this was really beautiful.