Some weather background to these unique scenes: A couple days ago we got 1.5 inches of rain, which melted the 12+ inches of snow that was on the ground. Needless to say, a lot of the local streams overflowed their banks, including the Tuscarawas River. And then yesterday, the temperatures fell precipitately, so all that water froze quickly.
I got about a mile onto the trail before running into impassible water, but not before seeing a number of wondrous sights. Water that had flash-froze while still flowing. Thin sheets of ice seemingly levitated above the riverbank. Miniature icicles dangling from low-hanging tree branches.
I was lucky to show up when I did, because the temperature was rising quickly just as I was leaving. When I pulled into the Olde Muskingum trailhead (the park I normally park at was completely flooded), it was a bitter 25 degrees, but when I left it had already surpassed 40 degrees. No doubt many of those delicate ice formations have already melted away.
On a beautiful fall afternoon, I was outside power-washing my driveway. The power washer is a rather noisy piece of equipment, but somehow I managed to hear a faint scrabbling above me (perhaps it was both the noise itself as well as the odd direction from which it came). I look up and saw this:
Now before you get some notion of me being some magical animal magnet, know that I’ve been feeding blue jays every morning outside my front door for the past few years. However, I won’t usually toss them anything when I’m in the back yard working, especially at that time of the day. And when I do, the blue jays will always remain high in the trees or on the power lines, well away from me. But this particular blue jay not only recognized me as the peanut dispenser, but worked up the courage to get that close. Perhaps he been trying to get my attention, but thanks to the loud power washer wasn’t having any success, so a more drastic measure would need to be attempted.
Given that I was able to snag this picture of him, the blue jay was not skittish at all. In fact, as I turned my attention to him, he became more courageous, dropping down from the top of the backboard to the top of the support pole:
I can’t quite reach up and touch of the top of the pole, but I could get close; that’s how near he was to me. Of course I rewarded this courage, and tossed him a peanut (yes, I always carry some with me).
He flew away to a neighbor’s yard, where after some extension planning, buried the peanut in the lawn and placed a leaf over it to make sure no one else would find. Then, seeing me still there, flew back for more:
I wasn’t able to capture him burying the peanut on video, but here’s a series of pictures that takes you through the process. First, he hops around until he finds a good spot….
Then he shoves the peanut into the ground (this may take a couple of attempts)…
…and then he’ll take a nearby leaf and cover the treasure trove so that nobody else will be able to find it. Given that he knows by now I won’t take back the peanut for myself, he’s gotten comfortable enough to bury it within viewing distance.
The process repeated itself at least five or six times, then he finally ate the peanut. Then, alas, the welcome interruption was over, and I had to get back to power washing.
This was taken at Mom and Dad’s house. While we were visiting, this garter snake slithered by, then, completely unconcerned that we were just 5-6 feet away, stopped and faced the field, sticking its tongue out in search of some prey.
1. Any of various arboreal rodents of the genus Sciurus and related genera, usu. with gray or reddish-brown fur and a long, flexible, bushy tail. Known for its determination, unconcern with repeated failure, almost infinite patience, and arcane sense in knowing that its human servant has placed a very rare nut-filled suet cake outside.
While our domain has been in an uneasy holding pattern the past couple of months, the rest of nature continues on unperturbed.
This is the third nest in as many years that the local robins have built around my house, but the first that I’ve been able to see down into. They built their nest on the outer sill of my garage window; I’m around it every day, but the robins don’t seem to mind too much, only flying away if I get within about 10 feet of the window. The mother laid all four eggs (one a day) before starting to incubate them, something I didn’t know before. Normally it takes about 14 days for the babies to hatch, and then another 14 days for them to fledge (or leave the nest).
I grew up in the country, but only since moving to the city have I been able to view many of these creatures up close, especially the deer, who seem to have almost no fear of humans.
The grosbeaks, catbirds, and orioles just arrived from the south in the past couple days, a sign that the weather will be getting warmer soon.
Another sign is the azaleas blooming.
Despite the cold weather (it even snowed yesterday), the peas I planted earlier this month have sprouted. I’ve planted a small garden for the past several years, but this year, given the uncertainty with the global food supply, I thought I’d get an early start.