January snow brings new faces

The snow started yesterday morning, but the birds knew about it before it came. The regulars (the titmice, nuthatches, chickadees and cardinals) all showed up, along with the dark-eyed juncos that found my stashes of black-oil sunflower seeds a few weeks back.

But the cold and the white stuff falling from the sky also lured a number of new visitors to our yard.

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All it took was a few flakes for this pine warbler to come looking for lunch.

I was startled when a large, handsome bird flew into the tree that shelters a few of the bird feeders. When I zoomed in with the camera, I discovered a brown thrasher. He wasn’t shy about eating from the feeder, either.

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I’m not sure who told this brown thrasher we had birdseed, but I was glad he came.
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Thrashers aren’t afraid of woodpeckers; this one scared my regular off while he had his fill.
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I love seeing the red-bellied woodpecker who hangs around several days a week.

I took a walk around the yard to see how things were faring as the flakes continued to fall. The nearby pines are pretty anyway, and they look very nice in the snow.

pines in snow
I don’t mind a few inches of snow here, as it’s usually gone in a few days.

It snowed through most of the night, and by morning the feeders were full of ice.  The birds were plenty hungry, so I set out some temporary feeders, and the neighborhood goldfinches seemed to like them.

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The male goldfinches are pretty even in their winter clothes.

I tried to spread the food around, but a few squabbles ensued, anyway.

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Even birds can forget their table manners.

The temperature will rise tomorrow, and what hasn’t melted will likely be gone by Saturday. Some nice, thick powder on the ground, an abundance of birds, and weather near the 60s by this weekend – that’s what I call a perfect snow.

 

 

Sometimes it pays to be lazy

The forecast called for a possible dusting of snow, and while I secretly hoped to see some (snow that quickly comes and goes is my favorite), I had my doubts. Here in central North Carolina, forecasting snow is particularly tricky. It all depends on the temperature and the timing of the front.

This morning, it was rainy and cold, and before long, sleeting. I made sure the bird feeders were full (I set more suet outside yesterday afternoon when the temperature was merely cool and brisk).

I had things to do at the old house, but really wanted to stay home and hibernate. It seemed a good day for it. Mom agreed, so we settle in to watch an old movie I had never been able to finish.

Halfway through, Mom hit the pause button and I peeked outside. Big, fat, wet flakes were falling. I scrambled to find my camera and something to focus on, but the weather was too quick for me. A few birds, however, were still long enough for me to snap some pictures. These are the best.

house finch in snow
The house finches were among the first birds to show up at our new home over the summer. I think they plan to stick around.
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Don’t you love how fluffy birds get when it snows?
titmouse in sleet
Around here, your photo session isn’t complete without a titmouse!

Beauty in December

You don’t have to travel far to find scenes worthy of a photograph. Bill and I had some free time this week, and found we were overdue for a visit to Umstead State Park. I have some vivid memories of that place, mostly involving a copperhead and a “death march” I took with him a few years back, but that is another story.

This time, I had a new camera in hand, and we searched out photo opportunities.

December is not the most colorful time of year in Raleigh. I think we’ve had a late fall; still, most of the leaves have turned and nearly all have fallen, but there are a few, colorful stragglers here and there.

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Gumball trees are an annoyance when they get big and start to reproduce.

We took off from the visitor’s station, which Bill warned was a bit of a walk to the main park, but I shrugged off his suggestion to drive in further and off we went.

I kept hearing birds I didn’t recognize, and managed to locate one with the zoom lens.

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I identified this white-throated sparrow by the patch of yellow just above its eyes (and some help from the Internet).

We walked on the road for a while, but the trails along the creeks offered the best views.

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The play of light through the trees makes for interesting patterns, even in late fall.

After 90 minutes or so of walking and stopping, we decided it was time to head back to civilization to find some lunch. But not before discovering a few more birds.

nuthatch
Nuthatches are one of my favorites.

Another beauty perched above our heads. I’m not sure, because of the winter feathers, but I think it’s an American redstart. My first time seeing this bird, as well.

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I’m still working on getting the camera to focus on the bird, not the branches.
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The same bird, from another angle. It’s about the size of a robin.

I’ve got four feeders set up around my house, but the birds have been scarce this fall. I’m not sure if it’s the location, the mild weather, or the number of hawks in the neighborhood. The squirrels are another story.

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This clear creek runs through Umstead State Park in Raleigh, NC.