Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas is for the birds

Hi all! I am back from a fantastic (although somewhat abbreviated) Christmas weekend up north.

As you know from my previous post, I waited until Wednesday to drive up to Mom and Dad's. While the weather was indeed better, the roads were not exactly fantastic. It was bitter cold when I left the Twin Cities, and the roads all the way to Duluth had a icy glaze on them. I drove between 45 and 60 MPH most of the way. Not good. But I made it in one piece.

And, I ended up leaving on Sunday due to the promise of snow overnight into Monday morning. All signs indicate that was a wise decision, as the Arrowhead of Minnesota was under a winter weather advisory today and the roads were snow-packed and horrible according to Dad. So I had a somewhat shorter trip than originally planned. But we still made the most of it.

I went running three times. Nothing too crazy, just a few 5 milers to work off some of the excellent meals! Temperatures ranged from -3 to 18 on those runs, so I was not terribly uncomfortable. Bird and wildlife activity is somewhat slow this time or year, so I didn't see too much on my runs. However, I was treated to a few spectacular sunrises over Lake Superior, so that more than made up for the lack of wild creatures.

But that is not to say that there are no wild creatures to be seen! Just hanging around in Mom and Dad's yard, and I could see their feeding stations are teeming with activity. All of the winter resident birds were there. The chickadees, nuthatches, hairy and downy woodpeckers, and the blue jays are permanent fixtures in the yard, as are a host of ornery red squirrels who chase each other through the snow in obviously territorial disputes.

We managed several hikes into the woods. The snow is quite deep compared to the dusting I experienced at Thanksgiving. My folks have received 34 inches so far this season, so the woods is draped with a rather thick but fluffy blanket of white. Very pristine and beautiful.

A snowy hike in the woods

Norris the red-breasted nuthatch and his roving band of chickadees are doing well, and they were most excited to greet us in the woods to enjoy their ration of sunflower seeds.

Bonding with Norris and the chickadees

There has been a new addition to Norris and his cast of characters, a solitary female white-breasted nuthatch. She is more wary than the rest, but she does follow us around. Dad finally figured out what she was up to. Norris and the other red-breasted nuthatches like to embed bits of seeds into the crevasses of the bark on the trees. The white-breasted nuthatch likes to creep up and down these trees and take the seeds that the other nuthatches were storing! We tried to tell Norris that he was getting fleeced by his nuthatch cousin, but I don't think he understood! :)

One of the friendly nuthatches, enjoying some seeds

Our trips into the woods were fun, even though this is a quieter time of year for wildlife. Occasionally a flock of redpolls would fly by. Ravens were very active, making all kinds of chortling noises. We even saw a single robin, which is an incredibly unusual sighting up there in the winter. And we got to inspect all kinds of interesting little tracks left in the snow. What winter lacks in terms of diversity of wildlife, it more than makes up for it in terms of beauty.

A snow-covered spruce

More pictures and details later, including a recap of some of our excellent meals, as well as our Christmas where we decided not to give each other gifts (wink, wink).

Until next time!

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