Below zero (F) this morning, with light, wind-blown snow. Wind coming from the north. Overnight I can tell it’s cold by the fact that the space heater by my bed comes on a lot, even though I keep it at the lowest setting.
Gray day. Got maybe six inches of snow from this storm, but it did blow and drift. Mainly, the cold’s the thing. Finally decided to head out in early afternoon. By that time it had mostly stopped snowing, and through the haze you could see the glow of the sun hovering low in the southern sky. When dog and I got to Beech Hill, we found it had gotten really windy.
No pileated woodpecker at the big dead pine, but fresh shavings lay about the base of the trunk. Great, twisting clouds of snow raced along the whitened slopes of the hill. I wrapped a scarf around my face and put my hood up.
Oddly, I saw a couple of herring gulls sailing over. They do show up occasionally, just passing over, but not usually in winter, if memory serves. But I felt kind of lucky to have seen them, actually, considering I I couldn’t imagine seeing or hearing any other birds up there in such conditions. Mainly I was focused on getting up and down without getting frostbit—all the while aware that the wind was whipping us from the rear, so we’d have that to contend with on the way back.
And then it happened: a snow owl rose from the snowy trailside about twenty yards ahead of us. Adrenaline shot through my veins as I tried to stay calm enough to focus on the lovely white bird as it flapped around to our right and crossed the trail behind us, flying into the wind. I had mixed feelings: on the one hand, it was the first snowy I’d seen up there, a sighting I’d wished for during many winters; on the other, I was sorry I hadn’t seen the bird before we flushed it and was afraid I hadn’t managed any decent photo.
Thankfully, I got a couple of what has become one of my favorite birds. And now I’ll be watching for ’em up there in the coming wintry weeks. It’s an irruption year, after all.
Beech Hill List
Beginning at 1 p.m., I hiked the open trail.
1. Herring gull*
2. Snowy owl
3. Northern flicker (v)
4. American crow
5. Rock pigeon
6. Ring-billed gull
7. Blue jay (v)
8. Black-capped chickadee
v = Voice only