First Snowdrops in 2019

Clarksburg, West Virginia, 7 February 2019

Despite dire warnings from French Creek Freddy, the official West Virginia groundhog, who was said to have seen his shadow six days ago, Spring appears to be on its way. The first snowdrops have appeared in our yard.

First snowdrops for 2019

First snowdrops for 2019

I was afraid that last week’s Polar Vortex had harmed them, but this morning some of them have broken through the ground, though not yet quite in bloom.

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Deer Nests

2019 February 2, Groundhog Day, Clarksburg, West Virginia

Deer nests

Deer nests

The three dark areas are deer nests, the places where part of our resident white-tailed deer herd slept in the frozen grass and snow of our back yard last night.

This isn’t a black and white photograph; it’s a color photograph of a black and white scene.

A Visit to the Blackwater River

26 December (St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day/The Second Day of Christmas) 2018.

We drove into the mountains to walk along the Blackwater River in the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater Falls State Park. There had been no snow around Clarksburg, but we thought there might be some in the mountains. We weren’t disappointed.

In Little Canaan a fishing platform provided us with a good place to stand near the river without soaking our feet. Snow was deep on the platform, but the air was warm enough for a few minutes’ stay.

At a fishing platform on the Blackwater

At a fishing platform on the Blackwater

And we indulged ourselves with a few snowballs and tiny snowmen, while the thin river ice gradually broke up and drifted downstream.

Ice on the Blackwater River in the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area.

Ice on the Blackwater River in the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area.

We had thought to drive further upstream to the kayak put-in we use on warm-weather expeditions to the Blackwater, but the dirt road in the wildlife management area is not maintained in winter, and we thought it unwise to continue driving in the rutted ice and snow there. Instead we moved downstream to Blackwater Falls State Park. On the overlook there, we found a small party of snowmen, suffering silently in the bright sunlight after being abandoned by previous visitors.

Snowmen at Blackwater Falls State Park

Snowmen at Blackwater Falls State Park

The snow had fallen wet and had been driven by enough wind to decorate the trees with damp white, highlighting the patterns of branch and needle across the river from our overlook.

The Blackwater River at Blackwater Falls State Park

Looking down onto the Blackwater River at Blackwater Falls State Park

Patterns of branch and needle highlighted in white

Patterns of branch and needle highlighted in white

And the next day

Clarksburg, West Virginia, 23 November 2018

After our Thanksgiving visitor, word of our bird feeders seems to have gotten around. The next morning we noticed this guy watching over our patio from the big maple tree by the garage.

Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus).

Interestingly, the goldfinches, and the titmice, and the chickadees, and some others of our usual mixed flock of “backyard feeder birds” seemed unimpressed. They continued to fly back and forth between the nearby trees and the feeder as if there were nothing to concern them. But I noticed that none of them approached the big maple, and there weren’t any woodpeckers or doves in evidence.

Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)

After a while the hawk apparently grew bored and flew away, revealing its lovely reddish shoulders as it glided behind the trees. A few minutes later we heard the characteristic thump of a bird hitting our window. We didn’t see anything, but I think the hawk must have frightened some inattentive bird enough to make it fly in panic without regard to walls and windows.

A Thanksgiving Visitor

Clarksburg, West Virginia, 22 November 2018.

Today was Thanksgiving in the United States, our annual harvest feast which we celebrate on the fourth Thursday of every November as a reminder that each of us needs to be grateful for the harvest, grateful for all that we have.

As we sat at the table finishing our meal, I happened to look out the window onto the patio. There’s a place on the patio where we put our bird feeders, and it is often crowded with seed-eating birds.

No one was visible.

Then I saw this guy sitting on the rail a couple of feet from the feeders.

Sharp-shinned hawk on the rail

Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) on the rail

I think it’s a male Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus).

For a little while we just sat quietly, not wanting to scare him away. But we wanted to check the bird book, and when Lisa quietly got up to get it we realized that he wasn’t terribly concerned about our movement. He did watch us a bit, but he was much more interested in gazing out into the trees, or at the bird feeders, perhaps meditating sadly on the absence of birds and small rodents.

After a while he decided to move across the patio, stopping for a few minutes next to the bird feeders. Then, surprisingly, he suddenly flew from the rail to the patio furniture.

Sharp-shinned hawk in flight

Sharp-shinned hawk in flight

He seemed to think that since we hadn’t filled the bird feeders with birds, he should just go sit at the table and wait. Maybe he was expecting his share of the Thanksgiving dinner.

Sharp-shinned hawk at the table

Sharp-shinned hawk at the table

But we still didn’t provide him with a meal, so after a bit he just flew away. Well, not completely away. He sat for another ten minutes or so in a tree overlooking the feeders. I think he wants me to refill the feeders.