Half-way Through Winter

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.

tracks in snowy field
Tracks in the snow.

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.

raven tracks in snow
Easy to see where the two marrow bones landed. Just follow the tracks.
dog, field
Conall didn’t understand my keen interest in the field since there weren’t any creatures out there.

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.

coyote in field
The coyote making its way across my lot, February 4, 2021.
coyote crossing snowy field
Moving down slope.

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.

coyote in snowy field

Conall was not happy.

Conall woofs his displeasure over a coyote snoozing on our lot.

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.

February 6, 2021, around 5:30 am.

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…

dogs on snowy road
Happy dogs on a frigid (temps in the single digits F) morning stroll in the valley, February 9, 2021.

…and runs in the forest.

dogs in snow
A snowy run on February 10, 2021.
snow trail
Dog’s-eye view of a nicely-packed and groom snow trail, February 11, 2021.
trees, snow, dogs
Finn checking “messages” left on a tree trunk during an early morning forest run, February 10, 2021.

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

16 thoughts on “Half-way Through Winter”

  1. Love that first photo of the sun shining through the trees and the shadows on the snow. Like the head shot of your beautiful dog. Your pictures of winter’s beauty and quiet peace were beautiful. Great captures of the coyote.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love how you describe winter – and agree!
    Peace, beauty, solitude, quiet. It is so special walking out on new fallen snow. I do miss all the wild life, especially the singing dogs, as we never heard or saw any last summer or this winter. Not even seeing the usual tracks of the ungulates this winter. Glad to hear you have some!
    Embracing winter with its beauty and solitude is a must up here, not hard to do, but not for those who want the sounds or action of towns and cities. Glad to see you are thriving and appreciating, thank you for your stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved the coyote pictures! I hope he/she found their pack.

    I like snow exactly one time during winter. As beautiful as it is, I just can’t get fully into winter. We already got our one good snowfall when we were landed in the Arkansas Ozark mountains. Now we are in East Texas and it’s supposed to snow here this weekend! If I didn’t have an injured crew member, we’d be taking this show on the road to warmer climes. As it is, looks like Sawyer and Finn will get to play in it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m envious of your groomed trails. I’ve been staying out of the woods because our snow is just deep enough to hide the trip-rocks, but not provide any protection when I trip on one. Looking at that snowy sunrise in your first photo, I think I’d really like to give snowshoeing a try.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Snowshoeing is a great option. I prefer running if conditions allow – I don’t get those running endorphins when snowshoeing – but often the snow is too deep. I bought a pair of lightly used snowshoes and telescoping poles for $25 from a local couple retiring to Panama 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw your snow photos – wonderful! Once one starts paying close attention, the seasons and their transitions offer endless fascination and entertainment. eh? Like you, I want to always live where the seasonal transitions are clear and observable.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great shots of your coyote visitor! My dogs would have been going nuts. Yes, I also hope it takes cover in the forest. I’ve seen a few red-wings here. The alert tone on my phone is a red-wing. It catches my attention better than other sounds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love that you have a red-wing tone on your phone! I’ll have to search, see if I can find it for my phone. It’s perfect because I always think of their song as similar to an old-fashioned phone ring. I heard their trilling song while hiking up into the forest this morning; even the huge dump of new snow of the past three days can’t dampen their enthusiasm to carve out territory for spring.

      Liked by 1 person

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