Tag Archives: winter

A Moment

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Helleborus spp. (Winter or Lenten rose)

Here in the northern hemisphere, it is the official first day of spring.

It is the day of the vernal equinox, that moment when the sun shines directly on the equator, when one season ends and a new one begins. That moment occurs today at 6:45 pm EDT.

For me, it is still winter. The thermometer agrees; it is exactly 32°F at this moment while I enjoy my hot morning tea and cozy warm sweater on this last winter morning.

It has been a good winter. I have had plenty of snow and cold and good birds and completed projects. And there might even be some more snow today. I love winter.

Like most people, I also love spring. I appreciate and need the revitalization of colors and plant growth, the arrival of summer birds, the warm sunny breezes on my face, and the energy that comes with the season. But I also feel a sense of apprehension. Winter is sometimes called fierce, and summer described as unrelenting. I find that spring has a force of urgency and determination that can be intimidating. It will push its way in without hesitation.

So I will savor every last moment of winter today. Then, this evening, and not a moment before, I will welcome spring with open arms.

Happy Spring!

~Elizabeth

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Red Red Robin…

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American robin, Leesburg, NJ. 2015 by E. Thompson.

When I was a child in Philly, watching birds in the teeny back yard with my mom, seeing a robin meant that spring was upon us. We would sing that old ditty about the red, red robin that comes bob, bob, bobbin along…

We did not see robins in winter.

The American robin (Turdus migratorius), is migratory, hence its name. Migratorius means “to go”. The robins of our backyards in summer are not the same robins we see in winter- if you see any in winter.

Robins form large flocks in winter, and they may or may not be in your area. I happen to live in an area of southern NJ where huge flocks of robins spend their winter. But I only see them pass over in great numbers in the morning and again at dusk; they don’t visit my garden. In spring they will move north for their summer nesting areas, and my summer robins will return from the south.

We just had another snow storm and it was a big one- about 7 inches of snow. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I love snow. And while I know that many of you are, no, I’m not tired of it yet. Seriously, I wouldn’t mind if winter stayed for another three months. I am however getting a bit tired of the laces on my boots.

Anyway, this snowstorm, and the ice storm and the snow of last week, provided endless opportunities for photographs. I am sure you all have awesome pics of this winter wonderland. So, I will not bore you with yet more wintry, snowy pictures…except for this wintry, snowy photo of a robin.

I have had huge unexpected flocks of robins hanging all about my house and yard during and after this storm. They have been lined up along the roof edge, with synchronized bobbing, drinking from dripping icicles. And they have been covering the Juniper shrubs like Christmas tree ornaments, devouring the berries and flinging the snow with their busy wings.

Robins prefer to eat worms and other things in the soil, but when they find themselves in an area of deep snow, they will resort to berries.

I don’t know if these are the wintering robins that usually remain aloof and overhead, or early migrants that signal the arrival of spring. Either way, despite anyone’s wishes, or the behavior of the robins, spring will not arrive until March 21st.

Are you seeing robins in your yard?

~Elizabeth

Cold & Icy

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Ice on spirea. (Elizabeth Thompson)

Baby, it’s cooold outside. I’ve had that song stuck in my head all morning. But at least it bumped the other song that had been stuck in my head since last Friday.

At 6am the thermometer reads 0°F. That is way below normal for this region.

There is so much beauty in winter. I love winter. I hear a lot of grumbling from people that are sick of snow and tired of cold. I don’t like being cold, but I love the cold. And snow and ice and frost of all sorts are just so beautiful.

The photo above is ice formation on a spirea shrub. I happened to spot it late last night when I took the dog out for a very quick walk.

I hope you are finding and enjoying some beauty in this winter season.

~Elizabeth

Snow angel

This little angel serenely watches over the fish wintering in the bottom of my little garden pond.

“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.”  — Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I took my tree down today…

I took my Christmas tree down today. An event I dislike because I love my Christmas tree and I love having its beautiful greenery in my home. This year’s tree was the most beautiful tree ever.
I say that every year.

Before I had children it was not unusual for me to leave it up for many weeks, even months.
Once, my tree remained until Easter! (It also helps to preserve the tree if you keep your thermostat very low.) But my son’s birthday is mid-January, and remembering how my sister never seemed to like that her birthday was tied up in the Christmas holidays, I have always made sure to get the tree and decorations down and put away before his big day. My son is grown and lives in his own home, but I have maintained that habit and it’s for the best.

When the tree was totally uncovered of decoration, I put in out in the yard for the animals.
Birds and small mammals will seek shelter in its branches and leaves, resting, staying warm, and hiding from predators. For a while it will stay near a bird feeder; hopefully I will be able to use it as a prop to get some good photos. Eventually it will be taken back to my large brush pile, where it can continue to provide shelter for birds and other animals.

How do you feel about your Christmas tree? Do you put one up? Did you put your tree out in the back yard for the animals to enjoy? I’d love to hear your comments.

~Elizabeth
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Red Fox Sparrow

This was no National Geographic photo shoot: there I was, on my belly on the pantry counter, camera lens stuck out the open window into the 11°F early morning air, trying to focus on the RED FOX SPARROW just outside. Two of my cats were trying to squeeze their way out of the slightly open window,  while my husband traipsed back and forth in the nearby driveway, crunching noisily on the ice and snow.  I admit, the photo probably shouldn’t be published, but hey, a Red Fox Sparrow, five feet from my kitchen is newsworthy in my opinion.

What a beautifully colored bird. The Red (or Taiga) Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca) is our eastern subspecies of the Fox Sparrows. “Slate-colored”, “Sooty”, and “Thick-billed”, the other three of the four main subspecies, are all found in specific western areas of the United States. I have seen Fox Sparrows before, but not this closely and I think this one was a perfect specimen. Just look at those lovely cheek patches and thick streaking on breast and flanks! Another interesting thing is the coloring of the beak- all yellow on the bottom, and yellow turning to black on the top of bill. Not a bird commonly seen during breeding season, winter is the time we get to spot them scratching about in the leaves on the ground, searching for food. This little bird was hanging out with several White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) here in my yard, a fairly northernmost part of it’s winter range. How nicely it blends in with the snowy winter landscape.

~Elizabeth