A flock of birds, likely robins, devoured the winterberries. I missed the feeding frenzy this year. with its loud, chaotic soundtrack. The berries are said to have a higher nutrient value after a hard freeze. We’ve had plenty of those, so I assume the birds got a big boost from the berries. They certainly stripped the bushes clean.
Small-waisted red cedar
Deer have browsed an even smaller waist into the red cedar at the edge of the meadow. The “Deer Out” I sprayed in the fall apparently was not a deterrent or maybe the deer have been especially hungry this season. I am grateful they have left the rhodies along the road intact.
A great horned owl called all night on Valentine’s eve. I heard him while I was snuggled up in my reading nook before bed, the couple of times I awoke during the night and again in the light of early dawn. If he was calling a mate, he got no answer. He’s moved out of hearing distance the past few nights, but I know I’m living in his territory.
I love the rufous hue of little bluestem in winter. Its fuzzy flowers catch the sunlight in a magical way. The tan switchgrass is a blah color, although its inflorescence–the highest in the field now as in summer–is majestic. The broome sedge has more red than switchgrass and less little bluestem, but it’s feathery stalks make up for the fact that its a lousy forage plant. Unlike the winterberries and the cedar, no one’s eating it anyway.
Finally, the days are getting longer. The sun rose today at 6:32 and set at 17:22. The arc it takes through the sky is still low to the horizon making long shadows, even at noon.
The three resident Red squirrels (and I do hope they are not in residence in any of my structures!) were in a noisy twit by the Sugar maple. I went to the porch for a look. It was that period of time mysteriously called nautical twilight — roughly 9:00 to 9:30 pm these days — by the website I use to check on the sun and the moon. I scanned in the dying light for the squirrels, but saw instead on a branch of the Sugar maple just off the porch the silhouette of a Great-horned owl. I could not make out his facial features, but he turned his head nearly 360 degrees, as owls can. I slipped inside for my bins but he took off before I returned exiting, as owls can, in complete silence.
His departure allowed the squirrels to go the sleep. The relative quiet of crickets and frogs singing their evening songs suited the complete silence of the June bugs. Nautical twilight and a waxing crescent moon provided enough light for a meadow stroll. Do the June bugs like certain parts of the meadow better than others, I wondered. In general, I’d say the population of June bugs is down, perhaps because I have been killing them in their grub stage as I’ve been digging in up grass to reduce the lawn. As I was coming to the conclusion they liked the less dry areas of the meadow better than the Little bluestem grassland, the Great-horned owl swooped across the meadow headed for the forest. If I had not seen him — this time just his in flight form — I never would have known he was there.
Nautical twilight was giving way to astronomical twilight, but the deck of the folly reflected the moonlight. I stopped by to reconsider the distribution of June bugs in the meadow. Now it seemed there were as many June bugs in the bluestem as anywhere else in the meadow. A deer I could not make out brayed somewhere near the wall and the stream. Time to head home.
Back in the house, it’s night. From here the sounds include moths bumping into lights, the occasional car passing, crickets and frogs calling. One night earlier this week, I woke up to the wails of distress. I must call 911, I thought, until I came to enough to remember that I was neither in NYC nor DC, and the cries were not human calls for help. Somewhere just off the porch, a creature was meeting its end at the jaws of another creature, likely a coyote or a Fisher cat. Too bad the meal wasn’t a Red squirrel, although without the squirrels, I would have missed the Great-horned owl.