Tuesday, December 26, 2017

B-b-brrrrr! #phenology

We aren't likely to get above up to 0℉ today. The current temperature is -6 and the windchill about -15. Snow is in Thursday's forecast, but today the sun is shining. We've been keeping the sunflower and suet feeders full and the dog walks have been mercifully brief.

downy woodpecker
downy woodpecker
Photo by J. Harrington

Yesterday and today we noticed downy, hairy, red-bellied and pileated woodpeckers at the feeders; plus nuthatches and chickadees; juncos hopping about the woods; blue jays on the branches and squirrels at ground level and in the trees.

The bigger birds do't seem overly affected by our arctic outbreak. They have a more reasonable surface to volume ratio. The chickadees though are almost all surface. What little volume they have is all fluffed up against the cold. Think for a minute about how long and how well you might endure being out in these temperatures. Chickadees, those minuscule sparks of life, do it twenty-four hours a day after day. We are in awe of their persistence and resilience, and their ability to perk us up when we're feeling otherwise.

puffed up chickadee
puffed up chickadee
Photo by J. Harrington

One of several books we received for Christmas is "The Naturalist's Notebook for Tracking Changes in The Natural World Around You." It includes a 5-year calendar-journal. It's not often we receive a present that has us looking forward to the next five years. Now we'll have to sort out whether blog postings feed the journal, or vice versa or none of the above.

                     Good-bye, and Keep Cold




This saying good-bye on the edge of the dark
And cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don't want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don't want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don't want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn't be idle to call
I'd summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don't want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard's the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn't get warm.
"How often already you've had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below."
I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an axe—
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard's arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.