It’s snowing, again. I love snow!
Even though winter officially started December 21st, and spring arrives March 21st, here in Idaho’s mountains winter doesn’t gain full steam until January. New snow intermittently drifts down from the sky through March and into April. Locals joke that it always snows on Memorial Day (late May), and it often does, although by then the snow on the ground has mostly melted (except at higher elevations) and any new snow quickly disappears.
I figure we’re about half-way through winter now.
Which means we’re deep into the quietest part of the year. Short days, with noise muffled by the deep snow. People mostly stay inside. Night skies, when clear, are brilliant with stars.
Peaceful. Contemplative. Beautiful. Calm.
No wonder I love winter.
For the wildlife sticking around, not migrating to less-harsh locales and conditions, times are challenging and food is scarce. They preserve their energy by keeping a low profile.
I rarely see white-tailed deer crossing my lot now, although I see their prints in the snow when the dogs and I venture up into the forest for a run. In spring and fall, I see several, daily.
The ravens are quieter as well, flying over the house less frequently now that Conall hasn’t been catching any voles for them. I watched a bald eager fly low over the house a couple days ago, following the same flight pattern as the ravens. I wondered if it had been watching them and decided to see for itself what was so interesting about my house.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to watch a bald eagle swoop into the yard for a vole, taking advantage of Conall’s Food Bank?
“Conall, you need to get busy finding voles,” I whispered as I watched the eagle.
A few days ago I saw a collection of animal tracks in the snow just below the yard fence. At first I wondered if a fox or a coyote or two had come near in the night, searching for food, but I knew Conall would have heard them and reacted.
Looking more closely, I realized the tracks belonged to our ravens. And then I remembered that the night before, I had given the boys marrow bones, which I tossed into the field after they were done.
Yesterday, when out in the yard, I heard a the distinctive call of a male red-winged blackbird. Or I thought I did, but isn’t it a bit early?
I heard it again today. Definitely a red-wing.
Red-winged blackbirds live in Idaho year round, but migrate short distances seasonally to maximize food availability. Where I live, they’re usually the first song bird to return the valley each spring. The males stake out their breeding territory, favoring the valley’s pastures and irrigation ditches, using their loud, persistent songs and aerial displays to attract later-arriving females and scare of competing males. Because of the males’ aggressiveness defending territory and nests, they’re sometimes called “nature’s assholes.”
Apparently at least one male red-winged blackbird thinks spring is right around the corner here. I’m not so sure. Nor am I ready for the snow to leave.
In a recent post I shared video of Conall “talking” to a coyote calling loudly at the edge of the field. The coyote has been a regular feature for the past month, hunting for voles in the field around my house, irritating Conall. Before the coyote appeared, there was a rather brazen fox doing the same. I haven’t seen the fox in a while; the coyote has likely pushed it out of territory it now claims.
This coyote has been so much in Conall’s face that I’ve been blocking the dog door, especially at night, so Conall won’t keep having intense and loud “conversations” with the coyote.
On February 4th, while working in my home office, I saw the coyote approaching from a neighboring lot up slope, then moving crossing my lot. I took a couple of quick photos, then blocked the dog door before Conall noticed it.
I hoped the coyote would disappear into the small, tree-filled gully, where it seems to spend much of its time, out of Conall’s sight. But no! Instead, it found a nice spot, where my lot adjoins a neighbor’s, to curl up for a snooze. In full view. In broad daylight.
Conall was not happy.
To gain us all some peace, I stepped outside alone and clapped my hands together several times, startling the coyote. He moved off into the gully, out of sight.
As I noted in an earlier post, I often listened to this coyote calling at night and, as seen in the video I included in that post, sometimes during the day. It wasn’t getting any response (except from Conall). I worried that its kin had been shot, or chased off. It seemed lonely, taking the risk of moving about and calling out loudly in daylight.
Then on February 6th, just before dawn when the atmospheric conditions (cold and clear) are conducive to sound transmission (echos), I heard coyote calls. I stepped outside, alone, to record.
Our coyote got a response! That makes me happy. In fact, I hope this coyote will decide to join other coyotes in the forest, keeping a lower profile where it will undoubtedly be safer from the rifles of hateful idiots.
When not being entertained by ravens and coyotes, the boys and I enjoy winter by entertaining ourselves with walks on valley roads…
…and runs in the forest.
Life is good.
One thing I’ve come to love about living in a place with four distinct seasons is that, about the time I’m ready for one season to be over, it is. I can then welcome the next one with open arms and full heart, eager to explore all over again its special and unique gifts, knowing that the next season will soon follow, just when I’m eager for change.
Everything becomes new again, season after season, year after year.
With each transition, I find something I need, even when I didn’t realize exactly what it was I was missing.
Look to the seasons when choosing your cures.Hippocrates