december, morning

late december

The light shining bright in my eyes. On a morning that came with the bluest blue cloudless skies. It’s like the first cup of coffee you grab before the rest of the pot finishes brewing. It’s like a jump start. And the jolt makes you realize you’ve been sputtering. Gray skies have their place in winter, for sure. But day after day after day, the way it seemed, they leave the spirit almost spiritless. Like it’s tugging a load around. Like you’re always pushing yourself when you feel like leaving everything just where it is.

Well, in the bright light of a morning that came with the bluest blue cloudless skies, a fox came trotting across the yard. I’ve seen many foxes before, and they always seem to me like they have somewhere to go. But this guy wasn’t in a hurry, and I had time to take a close look. It was fluffier than others I’ve seen. Maybe they get a winter coat. And it definitely stopped in the middle of the yard to poke at the ground. As if it eyed some kind of breakfast hiding just under the surface of the hard frozen grass.

I think the fox is a beautiful animal, but up close and personal, they scare me just a little. From my window, though, it was a wonderful sight on the last Sunday of the year, on a cold morning that came with the bluest blue cloudless skies, and December’s unfiltered light shining bright. Shining in my eyes.

December 27, 2020

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My picture from last year. I didn’t think to get a picture yesterday of the fox or the sky.

birds, seasons

the birds

Is it still summer? Yes, technically. But not really. We know it, don’t we?

The bugs are merciless and the cicadas are still noisy. The birds? I haven’t seen it just yet, but the same robins who would almost fight to the death over a strip of land in July, gather like one big happy family in September. A bunch hanging together on the gutter, looking down at another group picking the yard for worms. In my imagination, it’s something like happy hour. The offspring are hunting the lawn, and the grown-ups are up there standing guard, smoking, and telling the summer’s war stories. Bad talking the feral cats. Mocking the hawks. Like … hey, you remember the morning that loudmouth blue jay helped us fight the accipiter hawk? Chased that guy right out of the oaks, almost knocked that napping sap-sucker from its nest in the poplar, and we didn’t let up til our squawking hawk friend crash landed somewhere inside the big sycamore.

Territorial lines are gone now, I guess.

Not the hummingbirds though. They’re still in it to win it. I’ve never seen hummingbirds willing to share. I’m not sure they even share with their loved ones. That nectar must be something worth fighting for.

It happens every year. The catbirds finish nesting there, and the hummingbirds take over. One guy (the defender) claims the feeder and sets up perch inches away. And waits for interlopers. I can see the bird there right now.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but hummingbird competitions are fun to watch. One zooms in from nowhere for a sip of that intoxicating nectar, and the defender guy moves at light warp speed to intercept. Where do they get those reflexes? All that sugar, I guess. And the fight is on. They fly off after each other, at unbelievable speed. You’ve seen hummingbirds, you know what I mean. Synchronized turns. Timing. And angles that defy aerodynamics. Then the original defender guy returns to its perch.

The roses are fading, and the tomatoes are struggling to redden. But there are warm days left, and the hummingbirds have energy in the tank to fight on. One day soon, one day in September, they’ll leave.

And that … that is the end of summer.

nature, pileated woodpecker, writing

tat-tat-tat-tat

I lifted my eyes toward the treetops, and took in the jagged black and white underwings of a large bird. It flew below the canopy, but high among the branches, then landed halfway up a tree trunk and started drumming. It was about 50 feet from me, and I was happy to stand there for awhile to admire. Look up, listen, watch, marvel. Pileated woodpeckers are so impressive.

The sound of the woods is always wonderful. Quiet and still and noisy at the same time. There are crows cawing, some little bird sounds…the tweets and the chee-eeps. And often woodpecker sounds. The familiar drumming gives your eyes a direction to search, but the pileated woodpecker is still hard to spot. Some say it’s shy. This time, though, I could see it. I could watch that incredible crested head nodding to pick at the bark.

After a minute or so, the surrounding noise of the woods tugged my attention, and I recognized there was a second woodpecker. Louder, closer, somewhere behind me. I wondered, almost subconsciously, if the two were communicating with each other. My curiosity got the best of me, and I turned.

Ah-hah!

Another one. It was standing upright as woodpeckers do, easily balanced on the side of a tree, not far at all from me. [the one in the photo]

What magnificent creatures.

Photographed March 5, 2020