Saturday, January 21, 2012

Early mornings in the Valley

The sun's rays just begin to caress the tops of the hills and set the skies aflame. Snow glued to the branches will drip away slowly as the day progresses, but our mornings start long before that.

We've already been out  -when the sky was just beginning to lighten - putting the bird feeders in place for the day. Raccoon marauders love the black oiled sun flower seeds as much as the birds do, and prowl the perimeter of the property when it gets dark, then darting in to cadge a meal. It drives the dogs insane and their barking makes me similarly crazy. So into the back of the car with the feeders at night and out in the morning.

As we get ready for a walk, instead of carousing as they usually do, the dogs sit nicely for me while I try to get a picture. Spirit, ever attentive being a black lab, and worried or wondering why I want him to sit and not play the way I usually do, stares into the camera lens with his nearly black eyes. Bliss, bored and somewhat resentful that he's not playing glances at the birds nearby on the ground. I'm sure he's wondering if he can catch one, or thinking how good the game is going to be when I release them from their sit.

One of the games that Bliss plays is with the birds. There are several very smart little chickadees that come to the feeders, grab a seed and then make for a nearby bush or tree. The game is that Bliss runs to the foot of a tree, looks up into the branches until he sees one, then begins to prance and bark. The chickadees make for another tree. He chases after, spots them or it, and begins to bark again. This game of tag or hide and seek is a favourite when Bliss is waiting for me to fill the little toboggan with wood for the fire, or fill the feeders, sweep the walk, shovel snow, clean snow off the car, any one of a number of little outdoor chores before a walk or a ride in the car.

And the little birds wait too - high in the branches of one of the elms that line the edge of the property. They gather in a huge flock which seems to be growing. In this photo I count about 60. It seems, as they swirl and float from tree to deck to feeder to tree to bush and back, that there are hundreds.

There are feeders on all sides of the house. Filled mostly with suet and black oil sunflower seeds, but also niger seed not particularly a favourite in winter because they are so small, but they empty all too quickly and need daily replenishing.
And finally the bigger birds take their turn. The mourning doves, one of the many that dwell in the spruce tree on the west side of the church, was brazen enough this day to continue its search for seed on the deck. More often they leave and flee for the safety of the trees across the road at the tiniest movement in the house or nearby. The blue jays - the gang of thieves I call them - boisterous, raucous and full of joie de vivre, tackle all the feeders, jay-size and finch size, it matters not. If there's seed, they're sure to be nearby.

All in all the bird family that frequents this property is a pretty large number, and they show up early in the morning, returning every two or three hours for another nosh. There are American tree sparrows, white-breasted nuthatches (sadly no rosy breasted ones that I've seen this year), chickadees, house sparrows, American goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, at least half a dozen blue jays and maybe more, pairs of downie, hairy and red-belly woodpeckers, many soft cooing mourning doves, dark-eyed juncoes and once in a while hawks come to call. My neighbour says there is a goshawk hanging around. The sharp-shinned is a regular visitor and grabbed one of a pair of starlings the other day - in breeding plumage already and with red legs - that was all that was left - a pair of wings still attached to the collar bone and two red legs, claws curled in the snow amidst a lot of feathers. Sad but part of nature.

The pair of ravens that dwell in the small valley across the road behind a neighbour's home, call to me regularly in the morning as they head out across the fields. Their distinctive throaty call lets me know all is right with the world this day.

And today since the sun is shining, and it's calm and full of the sound of wings and occasional bird calls, I know all's right with the world this morning as well. Hope it is in your neck of the woods.
And my apologies for not posting every day as I have in the past. These last few months have been busier and often it's more difficult to get access to the internet to write. Bear with me. I think of it every day as it's such a delight, and the people who comment are always so kind and have the most interesting blogs for me to follow as well. I'm sure I'll get back to regular posting soon. Enjoy your day everyone.


  1. Hi Barbara, nice post on your birds. And I love your dogs. I love watching the birds at my feeders after a snowstorm. I usually see so many, it is great. But, not as many as yo have there, it looks like a lot just in the one tree. Great shots. I hope you have a Happy weekend!

  2. It looks like you have a regular following in the bird department. That's quite a variety and I really like how they seem to come in waves. Your blog always brings a smile to my face. Thanks.

  3. Thank you both for your very kind comments... love hearing from you both.