Category Archives: winter

Friendly neighbourhood magpies

A pair of magpies frequent the rowan tree outside my window.

One morning this winter they were huddled together on a branch, their white breasts gleaming together in the sunlight.

magpies

I often see one silhouetted atop a spruce in the distance – a striking tree-topper.

Last month I saw one of them struggling to remove a branch from the abandoned magpie nest in the rowan, and fly with it across the street to a tree in the alley – an early sign of spring!

Three weeks ago this pair were chasing a harassed little red squirrel through the rowan tree (all our squirrels are little and red).

Today a blue jay alighted in the tree with what appeared to be a peanut shell in its mouth. Before long this pair arrived on the scene and chased the jay around the yard and out of sight.

Spring cleaning

The sun is especially warm today and the backyard filled with spring-like sounds of dripping water and bird song. A dozen chickadees twitter and flit from a large puddle in the icy garden to the oak branches above, busily grooming.

Duet

This morning serenaded by two owls calling back and forth with each other. Has gone on for some time and continues now. Coming from the direction of the park where the owl took up residence this past summer. Never heard anything like this before.

Sickle moon

Saw the merest wisp of the sickle crone moon low in the sunrise-pink sky around 8 this morning – crescent so delicate it could melt away in a moment; just a glimpse of her back as she slips out the door.

The sun still had a ways to climb before breaking the horizon on this solstice weekend.

Moon and sun meeting at the darkest end of their cycles.

A perfect weekend to enjoy the gifts of the darkness – healing rest, quiet contemplation, stillness – a peacefully introspective time.

Gift of the Raven

A raven was on our front walk this morning, with a prize, and an audience of magpies arrayed in the surrounding branches.

Raven and prize

Raven and prize

It flew up to the lamppost, then left soon after. So did the magpies – all abandoning the prize alone on the pavement.

“It’s a bird,” said my partner… “It’s still alive,” seeing it flutter a little.

We stood at the window and contemplated the harsh realities of predator and prey.

Soon after, we went out and saw the prize close-up –

A young raven?

No – a styrofoam, feather covered little crow figurine, with wires coming out of its feet.

Little crow

Little crow

Mystery sighting

Chickadees out in full force this calm, snowy morning, two nights and one day into this heavy snowfall.

A mystery bird came to the oak trunk and clung upside down there, closely followed by a female Downy Woodpecker with its smart black and white back.

The mystery bird is about twice the size of the chickadees, a little smaller than the woodpecker. Bigger than the nuthatches that frequent this area. Creamy buff breast and darker, greyish back. Shaped like a nuthatch or woodpecker with their short stubby tails.

The Downy meandered up the ant-sheltering oak trunk for a while, hunting, while the mystery bird just hung out, upside down, sheltering on the leeward side of the trunk.

A passing chickadee stopped at the tree and watched the woodpecker hopefully for a while.

Urban wildlife

My dog and I met a large coyote trotting down a back alley this morning, half a block from the river valley drive. My dog was eager to meet it, so I was relieved when it shyly detoured up into a driveway to avoid us. I’m surprised I don’t see them more often, this close to the valley.

In honour of our first lasting snow…

Yesterday afternoon set in misty and cold. I had half a mind to spend it by my study fire, instead of wading through heath and mud to Wuthering Heights. … I took my hat, and, after four miles’ walk, arrived at Heathcliff’s garden gate just in time to escape the first feathery flakes of a snow shower.

On that bleak hill top earth was hard with a black frost, and the air made me shiver through every limb. … The snow began to drive thickly. I seized the handle to essay another trial; when a young man, without coat, and shouldering a pitchfork, appeared in the yard behind. He hailed me to follow him, and, after marching through a washhouse, and a paved area containing a coal-shed, pump, and pigeon cote, we at length arrived in the large, warm, cheerful apartment, where I was formerly received.

It glowed delightfully in the radiance of an immense fire, compounded by coal, peat, and wood: and near the table, laid for a pleasant evening meal, I was pleased to observe the “missis,” an individual whose existence I had never previously suspected.

~Chapter II, Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte