Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Winter is Here...

In New England we have nine months of winter and three months of darned poor sledding.
~old New England proverb

I think this bird is wishing it had migrated south for the winter.
Thankfully it's not usually as bad as that old saying would make it seem, but winter in New England is now in full swing.  The holidays were lovely, if cold.  Though my family coming from down south was delayed by our ice storm, they made it up before Christmas to spend the week with us.

crabapple tree encased in ice
Everything was covered in an impressive layer of ice.  The curly ting in my winter containers had a little extra pizazz.

We were lucky enough to get snow on Christmas.  It was so lovely to have a white Christmas, especially for my family up from the south.  The temperatures then dropped to below zero (-20° Celsius) for a true New England winter experience.  Despite the cold, we all had a great time spending time with family that we don't see often enough.

The bitter weather continued into the New Year with a blizzard the first week of January that dropped about a foot and a half of snow.

The second week of January it rained and then got up to about 60°F (15°C).  The poor plants were probably totally confused, but the birds were ecstatic to get some respite.  I've never heard them sing so loudly.

Bluebird basking in the sun
This week it is back to snowing again.  While it might not last nine months, New England winters can get rather long, so it's critical to have hobbies.  Bird watching is one that really helps me through the winter.  When all the plants are brown and frozen, it is so enjoyable just to see signs of life outside.

Northern flicker
Every year I've had Bluebirds overwinter here, and I was glad to see several Bluebirds stay this year as well.  It was once quite rare to see Bluebirds this far north in winter, but it is now becoming more common.  They are one of my favorites, with their brilliant blue plumage.

The story of the Bluebirds is also one of my favorites.  Their population saw a steep decline between 1920 and 1970 due to widespread pesticide use, an increase of house cats, loss of habitat, and invasive birds that aggressively took over suitable nesting sites.  By the 1970's, Bluebirds were on the brink of extinction.  Thankfully a grassroots movement took hold to save them.  Organizations such as the North American Bluebird Society formed, which set up and monitored trails of bluebird nesting boxes.  Concerned bird-lovers put up nesting boxes all over the country.  The movement was a smashing success, and the population of Bluebirds rebounded.

Isn't that such a hopeful story?  Other conservation efforts have really caught on recently, such as helping the bees and the Monarch butterfly, and I do hope that these efforts will be just as successful.  (And hopefully these efforts will also have a positive effect on the environment for the many creatures out there that aren't quite as flashy or as noticeable.)

Judging by the tracks and plant damage I think our bunny and deer populations are doing pretty well, though... 

bunny tracks on the front walkway
...possibly too well.

Happy winter, and stay warm!

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