Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Winter birds (plus Hobbits etc.) #phenology

First, and most importantly today, don't forget to make a Happy Birthday wish for J.R.R. Tolkien! Let's hope that we have no Long Winters in our future.

We had too much local cloud cover last night to get a glimpse of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. Today's clearing skies offer hope for a better view tonight / tomorrow morning, but wind chill and resulting heavy coats, scarfs and hats may make it a challenge to stand still and look up during tomorrow's early (4 am) dog walk. Seeing that Boston is experiencing rain with temperatures in the low 40's makes me only a little nostalgic for my place of origin.

Male Cardinal at tray feeder
Male Cardinal at tray feeder
Photo by J. Harrington
Today's Star Tribune has a nice article about the 8 Minnesota birds to watch for in the Winter. We've had each and every one at our feeders (except for the sparrows), although, this year, the Cardinals have been scarce to non-existent. The one feeder we've been filling regularly isn't their preferred style. The tray feeders they like attract too many squirrels, and, without tray feeders, the squirrels have been feasting on the ground litter so the Cardinals haven't been ground feeding either. Time to fill the wire feeder and see if that offers a productive compromise. The bright red splashes of male Cardinals do wonders to help temper Minnesota's Winters.

Owls have also been conspicuous by their local absence. The bat box doesn't seem to have worked well, but maybe we could try an owl nesting box to attract more owls to the area, although, if squirrels were more nocturnal, or owls hunted more in the daytime, I'd expect the gray and red rodent abundance we have to be tempting.

The King of Owls




It is said that playing cards were invented in 1392 to cure the French king, Charles VI, of madness. The suits in some of the first card packs consisted of Doves, Peacocks, Ravens, and Owls.

They say I am excitable! How could
I not scream? The Swiss monk’s tonsure
spun till it blurred yet his eyes were still.
I snapped my gaiter, hard, to stuff back

my mirth. Lords, he then began to speak.
Indus catarum, he said, presenting the game of cards
in which the state of the world is excellent described
and figured. He decked his mouth

as they do, a solemn stitch, and left cards
in my hands. I cast them down.
What need have I for amusement?
My brain’s a park. Yet your company

plucked them from the ground and began to play.
Lords, I wither. The monk spoke right,
the mealy wretch. The sorry patterns show
the deceiving constructions of your minds.

I have made the Deuce of Ravens my sword
falling through your pillows and rising,
the wing blades still running
with the jugular blood. Your bodies lurch

through the steps of an unpleasant dance.
No lutes play. I have silenced the lutes!
I keep watch in the clipped, convulsed garden.
I must have silence, to hear the messenger’s footfall

in my brain. For I am the King of Owls.
Where I float no shadow falls.
I have hungers, such terrible hungers, you cannot know.
Lords, I sharpen my talons on your bones.

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