Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A winter Storm

In coastal Virginia we don't normally get heavy snows. Two to three inches is enough to shut things down for the day like they did just last week. But yesterday a big storm formed off the coast and dumped significant snow on us. Something we see maybe every three to five years. The National Weather Service reports 8 inches near us and that is consistent with what we see. There were drifts that are probably pushing a foot or higher. The storm left the yard very pretty.

Early this morning the birds were out filling up to stave off the cold. The high today was only 24F; again something that we only see a few times a year. This White-throated Sparrow was picking seeds that had fallen on top of the snow.

In late morning we saw our neighborhood fox again. This is the third time this month we have seen it up in the main part of the yard. We had only seen a fox a couple of time prior to this year and back in the wooded area. The fox was too "sly" for me to get a good picture but here it is up on the sandbags that I use for flood protection when hurricanes hit. You can see the tail behind the ladder on the side of the shed.

My wife and I bundled up and went out for a walk in the yard. There were a lot of animal prints and I tried to get photos of them.
This is bird prints near the feeder. Obviously there has been a lot of activity today.

The birds were even wandering over the top of the barrel garden. This is the same barrel as in third photo above.

And here is an interesting one that I can't quite tease the story out of. There is a wing print to the left of the feet prints. This would suggest a bird, maybe a dove, trying to take off. But it is only on one side. And the foot prints continue on for quite a while with no more wing prints. So maybe it was just a single flap of the wings. But then there is a pair of small prints to the right that are unconnected to anything else. They differ from the main line of prints and there is nothing in front of or behind them. So maybe another bird landed her to harass the first? Maybe they are from different times and are unrelated? It will remain a mystery to me for now.

Below are the prints of the fox. These were made when we saw it run across the yard just before the picture of the fox tail above.

I was surprised by how deep the prints were. The go almost all the way to the ground. I would have expected the fox to be lighter than that.

And I wrap-up with a few pictures of the marsh. The first is the snow on the pier. The wind did some weird things and cleaned most of the snow off, or never let it accumulate in the first place, but not all of it.

And parts of the creek were frozen but not all of it. Surprisingly, the wider part was frozen, as was the small canal across from us. But the creek was free-flowing at our dock which is in between the frozen spots.

And then, in spots in the marsh where water runs, the snow had collapsed; presumably as the tide went out. It created some interesting visual patterns.

Monday, January 27, 2014

More unusual visitors

We have had a couple of almost reasonable weather days since the last snow storm and that has brought it's own group of unusual birds. Sunday as we were watching the birds come and go to the feeders, my wife noticed a Chipping Sparrow sitting on the bird bath. And then a second on the ground near the butterfly garden. And then another. And another. And another. I'm sure you are getting the picture by now. I ended up counting 20 Chipping Sparrows. And there might have been more as they barely stuck up above the grass and I probably missed some of them. Several White-throated  and Song Sparrows joined in the fun and the whole lawn and alive with their movement. And while scanning for more sparrows, Sharon saw a Woodcock sitting in the garden.  It was sitting for about 30 minutes but during that time it would occasionally start vibrating its body up and down without moving its head at all. It then started probing the garden dirt and stayed for at least another hour.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter visitors

For the past day we have had a winter storm come through. Forecasts as to its impact varied widely yesterday but we ended up with a modest 1-2 inches of snow over night. I had set up my time lapse camera in hopes of making a video of the storm. I was foiled on two fronts. First, the snow didn't start until after dark and second, when it did snow, some collected on the front of the lens and blocked the view. So there isn't even a picture of the yard after the snow fell.
But the storm did bring a load of birds to the backyard. There were almost 30 House Finches running back and forth between the shelter of the pine trees covered with vines and the feeder. It got so busy at times that I started a reservation system.
There were also a full range of sparrows. We had several of the typical White-throated and Song Sparrows plus a Swamp Sparrow, uncommon this far up in the yard. And a Chipping Sparrow; to the feeder, no less.

As the birds were preparing for the storm last night we had a visit by a pair of Northern Flickers.
This morning before breakfast we saw an Eastern Red Fox walking through the back of the yard. It wandered to one side and back to the other, then towards the way back of the yard and then back down the path. Later in the day we went out and could see the prints left in the snow.
And when we continued our walk out into the marsh we had a yard-first: a pair of Eastern Meadowlarks.