Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shalom to Winter . . .

. . . and honor to the squirrels of the nest in the Bradford Pear outside my window---the same nest I wrote about on Dec 13 in "Hey, Hawk!" Usually the squirrels build their nests too high in the trees to observe closely on a regular basis, but this one is low and near enough to the window by which I drink my early morning coffee that I've observed it all winter. I didn't see it being built, and only first noticed it when the leaves of the pear tree fell away in November. Watching a squirrel's nest on any given day could never be considered a rewarding habit, but in the course of a winter of morning meditations over coffee, enough activity has accumulated in my memory to be worthy of comment.

First there was the Dec 13 invasion by the Cooper's hawk who stabbed at the nest and threw out dry leaves amid the outrage of the house finches. I wondered at the time if the nest was active or abandoned, because as far as I knew, the hawk only searched it, and did not find a meal there before the finches chased it off.

The next noticeable activity came on the morning of the third day of continuously below-freezing temperatures after our January ice storm, in an observation that touched my heart. Two house finches were clinging to the underside of the nest, apparently gleaning the warmth that leaked from the nest's interior. I assumed this was an indication that at least one warm-blooded squirrel was burrowed inside the nest, and I liked to think it hinted at a cooperative living arrangement whereby the squirrels lent warmth to the finches in January in exchange for the favor of chasing the hawk from their nest in December. Whether by agreement or random response to a need makes no difference. That it happened at all was a phenomenon I found sweet and paradoxical, given the otherwise brutal nature of life in the wild.

Later we had a week of unseasonably warm weather between our Jan & Feb snows, and during that week two squirrels busied themselves bringing leaves to the nest in an industrious display of homemaking activity that I observed on only one morning. I know not if they were fortifying for another possible cold spell, or preparing for an upcoming birth, but I'm committed to watching them throughout the spring season, which seems suddenly to have arrived, if today's warm air and returning orchestration of birdsong are any indication. dkm

p.s. The photo of the nest in question was taken on the day after the light snow of Feb 9 & 10.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Winter to Remember . . .

. . . in more ways than one. First, for Georgia's mid-January storm that left us covered with a five inch layer of ice-glazed snow, beautiful to behold, impossible to navigate.

Next, for the early-February blizzard across upper mid-western North America that left a similar but thicker layer of ice over much deeper snow. We happened to be visiting family up north at the time of the storm. On one occasion it dumped us into a ditch on a county road nearBerlin, Ohio. That incident required us to abandon the car and trudge without boots through deep and blowing snow to get to warmth and safety. The ice on Ohio's snow was thicker and tougher and harder to break than Georgia's, and it sliced our ankles as our feet dropped through the surface. Even with a childhood in the blizzard state of Kansas, and later in the snowy winters of Pennsylvania, I can not remember ever experiencing ice of this kind on soft deep snow. It caused the sun to reflect from the rolling hillsides of Ohio farmland in a spectacular blinding glare that looked more like fire than ice.

And then there was the Disney filming that took place yesterday at the house across the street from our house. They put fake green leaves on the bare trees. They painted the grass in our front yard green. They installed over a dozen trees in front of our house, they brought truckloads of equipment, they floated a man in a giant crane and cherry-picker overhead, they parked a two-seater porta-potty in our driveway, they set up a "classroom" in my kitchen for the four child actors who will star in this movie called The Odd Life of Timothy Green, starring Jennifer Garner,,and it was the most astounding lot of unnatural activity seen on our street since it was first cut through the woods in the 1950's. It was beyond exciting for me to host the four charming child stars in my home, but, Pukeko G, I've been worried about the earthworms under the front yard since they sprayed our grass green. It can't possibly be good for them once it washes into the soil. More on that topic next post.
In the meantime, one more memorable winter shot. Last night a light soft snow fell on the fake trees that have not yet been removed from the yard. I'm not permitted to put photos of any of the filming activity on the internet, but this one is permissible, because it has no people in it. I took it to show the difference Hollywood can make---in contrast to another shot of the house after the first snow. Same house. Two snows. One month apart. dkm

p.s. You can google the name of the movie to learn more about the remarkable children that took their lessons in my humble kitchen all day yesterday.