Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Fire and ice

Brilliantly clear and cold here at first this morning, clouds have arrived and light snow is falling again --- although not in the forecast. It's been a perfect morning if you don't mind below-zero temperatures. Not sure what the overnight low was, but it's minus-4 now.

Headed out to shovel the drive again (did that three times yesterday to avoid packing snow when driving over it), I counted layers. Two of socks (one wool-blend and the other cotton), insulated pants (but no long underwear since I didn't plan to be out for long), three layers of shirt topped off by my warmest winter coat, a knit cap and gloves advertised as ideal for these temps. Everything worked except the new-fangled globes, so came back in and got an old lined leather pair that worked just fine.

One of the frustrations of winter life is devoting all that time to bundling up, then discover once outside shoveling that you've forgotten to take your glasses off and blind yourself with every breath.

The dark-eyed juncos along with goldfinches (who prefer the thistle seed feeder) kept me company. They're my most loyal customers at the feeders, although the juncos are ground feeders by nature and while they'll experiment with thistle seed and the seed feeder prefer to scratch around on the sidewalk, where I feed them.

Other visitors this morning have included red-bellied woodpeckers, an extremely calm mourning dove, white-breasted nuthatches and the usual dive-bombing bluejays and cardinals.

According to my favorite bird book (Stan Tekiela's "Birds of Iowa") dark-eyed juncos are Canadian snowbirds who head south to Iowa for the winter (actually, according to the book, female juncos head farther south; I've only noticed one or two females among the flocks of males here). They're fun to watch, always squabbling, and feed now matter how bad the weather.

No school here today and both of my meetings canceled. So it looks like it's going to be just me and the birds.

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