Winter is considered a time of quiet and hibernation, and often we wait until spring to think about viewing birds and other creatures. But the cold of winter increases the energetic need of wild animals, sending them out to seek food at all hours of the day. It’s one of the best times to watch for urban-wild encounters. Just a few of the visitors to our little yard at the Tangled Nest these days:
We’ve had lots of Varied Thrushes this year. Today a Sharp-shinned Hawk rushed through and caught one in the bushes by the back fence, then stood under the cherry and began to “exfoliate” the thrush before flying away with it in her talons! I wish my photographer husband was here to capture that! I found myself wondering why the hawk couldn’t have settled for one of the gajillions of starlings in the neighborhood, instead of “my” beautiful thrush.
I do not maintain an arsenal of birdfeeders (I’m too lazy to keep them as clean as they should be…), but I do love the few little window feeders in my study that bring birds within a few inches of my face as I sit at my desk and write. In the autumn and winter, flocks of bushtits crowd onto the suet feeder, creating giant “bushtit balls,” up to 50 at one time. “Cuteness Overload,” as my teen daughter says.
We call this male Anna’s hummingbird “Old Man.” He sits on a branch by the feeder on our porch, eats, then sits some more, as if on a park bench, watching the world go by.
The other day I stepped out to gather the mail, and was hit with a barrage of crow scolding. There was a squirrel sitting on a branch near the crows, but surely that couldn’t have been the problem? No, in fact the squirrel itself was scolding something. Even a little Anna’s hummingbird was upset. I felt very unobservant when I finally looked down to notice, almost right at my feet, the young raccoon that was exploring my front yard. When I said “hello,” he looked up at me, came closer, and looked up some more. The spell was broken when my cat Delilah got out, and I ran to get her (I had no worries that this little raccoon would hurt my cat, but Delilah is not supposed to go out!). It is a common myth that raccoons seen during the day are rabid; here in the Pacific Northwest there is no rabies (except very rarely in bats–never in squirrels, raccoons, etc.), and there are all kinds of reasons raccoons might be out in daylight. In summer and autumn, adult female raccoons will be out all day seeking food for their young of the year, either alone, or with the baby raccoons. And adolescent raccoons, who are inexperienced and so have a harder time feeding themselves, are often out alone in daylight, but especially in winter when meals are more difficult to come by. Distracted by Delilah’s escape, I didn’t manage to get this fuzzy iphone photo until the raccon was loping away, and under the fence into the backyard where my chickens were running loose!–locking them up was my next stop, but by that time he had completely disappeared, as raccoons do…
Who is visiting your urban-wild home these winter days?