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February 16, 2013

Birdwatching: Downy Woodpecker

Filed under: Birdwatching,Creatures,Winter — Judy @ 6:15 pm

Today was a great day for birdwatching and I was watching this little guy. Can you see him up there near the top of the tree?

Downy woodpecker

Today was also the second day of the GBBC, otherwise known as the Great Backyard Bird Count, a joint venture between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, with their Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada. This is a four day event where folks of all ages and experience all over the world count birds in their backyards, in the parks, where ever they are and submit their lists online. This is citizen science at its best and the information obtained gives researchers great insight into where the birds are in real-time. If you want to know more, go here and check it out. You can even find out what birds are being found in your area right as the checklists are being submitted!

The Downy Woodpecker is one of those sort of tricky birds to identify in that it looks so much like its larger cousin, the Hairy Woodpecker. Both have that black and white checkered appearance with a wide white stripe down the back. The males of both species have red splotches on the backs of their heads. Besides other smaller differences, the key distinguishing features are the smaller overall size of the Downy (about 6″ long versus about 9-11″ for the Hairy) and the smaller and daintier bill. The long, chisel-like bill for the Hairy is about the same size as the distance from the base of the bill to the back of the head. The Downy’s bill is only about one-third to one-half of that distance.

Downy woodpecker


This one was definitely a Downy woodpecker judging from his size (compare it to the size of the branches around him) and the size of his bill. Downys are often found in suburban areas, are bolder and more curious, even coming down to eat seed from one’s hand in some cases, than the Hairy, which stays deeper in the forested areas. They are also fairly noisy little birds and quite acrobatic – cute!

Downy woodpecker


Both Downy and Hairy woodpeckers make their nests in tree cavities, but the Downy woodpeckers excavate smaller, round cavities while Hairy woodpeckers have larger, more oval-shaped cavities. I believe this little guy is prepping a future home for his little ones. I will have to keep an eye out to see if the mama comes around.

Downy woodpecker close up


If you want to know more about the Downy woodpecker, how to distinguish it from the Hairy, and to hear its chatter, go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website here.


February 11, 2013

Sparkling snow

Filed under: Winter — Judy @ 3:24 pm

The promise of blue sky late Saturday was right on the money! On Sunday the sun was shining and the sparkles were zooming around everywhere. The roads were clear, people were out and about, and enjoying the beauty of the day. Take a look at these shots:

Sparkling snow in the backyard


Another snow view


The little crabapple looks like a little fountain! And look at all those deer tracks – guess they are enjoying the snow too . . . unfortunately!

Sparkling crabapple


ThisĀ  is the view I see looking out my kitchen door onto the deck. So pretty!

Sparkling view of the deck


White paperbark birch, long needled pine, and snow – the epitome of a perfect winter scene!

Sparkling pine and birch


Birch catkins sparkling with their ice jewels.

Birch catkins


More catkins


This beautiful snow, the bright blue sky, and the sparkle of the sun on the snow remind me so much of the great times I had skiing with my family in the Glades at Killington in Vermont when we were young. With my brothers here, waiting for the rest of the family in long ago times.

Skiing in the Glades


Now, doesn’t that snow and sun and sky look the same? How would you spend your day if you had a day like this? Skiing, sledding, skating, sitting by the fireplace?

February 10, 2013


Filed under: Winter — Judy @ 9:02 am

Winter storm Nemo has come and gone now. (sidenote: is it necessary to name winter storms? and silly names at that?) We ended up with about 15 inches on the ground on Saturday and it was so pretty! Very few people were out and about and it was very calm and quiet. Those that were out probably had urgent business because for sure no one would be driving unless it was absolutely necessary. Here are some pictures to give you a sense of the snow we got. Not as much as in the NYC to Boston corridor, but enough to make it a “good” snowstorm.

Snowy birch


Heavy snow in the backyard


Snowy pines


The little crabapple is almost completely covered!

Snowy crabapple


Look! No footprints . . . and no driveway clearing either!

Snowy maple


The Heritage birch is heavily weighted to the ground. Thank heavens it is such a flexible tree!

Snowy birch


And late in the afternoon, glimpses of blue sky bring promises of the return of the sun.

Sun is approaching


I understand some folks lost power in this storm. We did not, but kept warm and cozy inside. How did you fare?

February 8, 2013


Filed under: Winter — Judy @ 9:22 pm

In the last few weeks, we have had temperatures up into the sixties, down into the teens, and everywhere in between. But NO SNOW! Well, today that all changed and the big, fat, heavy, wet flakes are coming down fast and furious. A snowpocalypse is coming – well, not really. We are having snow, yes, but really, it isn’t much different than any other winter snow storm. We are expected to get maybe 8-12 inches although the NYC to Boston corridor may get up to 3 feet. We did get out and shovel the driveway so we could go to the store to get some milk that we were almost out of, but we’re from the Southern Tier where “this ain’t nuttin’, bub!” Hopefully, the snow will stick around a while since I am looking forward to getting out and doing a little skiing.

Some pictures from today – the first two are cell phone pics taken while coming back from the store, the next three taken during a break in the snow this afternoon, and the last one was taken at 7 PM using the night mode on my camera to show how far the birch tree was bent to the ground.

Cell pic


Cell pic






Front yard


Night front yard


What are your guesses? How much snow will we get? Will my nephew Patrick be out plowing all night long?

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