Oh Baby!

It’s so cold outside that probably the smart thing to do would be to stay snuggled within, but I couldn’t.

a-bluejay with seed

After all, the birds were on the move, though they were a bit puffed up, a normal behavior when the temp is below zero. Their feathers help insulate them from the cold (and my hands understand that as they were tucked inside down-filled mittens). Fluffing up traps as much air as possible, thus keeping our avian friends warm.

s-robin

Their feathers are also waterproofed with an oil coating, a good thing on this not only frigid, but also slightly snowy day.

s-frost around squirrel homes

As I wandered, I noticed that the squirrels and maybe other small mammals had decided not to venture forth and found plenty of evidence that they were huddled inside. Ice crystals formed in holes beside trees, and . . .

s-frost by stone walls

openings in stonewalls . . .

s-frost again

reminded me of the feathery display on our windows on cold winter mornings. These were the mammals’ windows–such as they are.

s-stained glass

And speaking of windows and ice, which has lasted longer than usual following the Dec 23rd storm, everywhere branches reminded me of stained-glass leading highlighting the picture of our winter world.

s-red maple buds

But, here’s the thing about ice. Like feathers, it also serves as an insulator, keeping leaf and flower buds along tree branches protected from the cold. Oh, they have waxy coatings, but the ice adds another buffer.

s-beech bud

Some of the sights I saw today made me chuckle, like the beech bud poking through one of the tree’s marcescent leaves.

s-pinecone on maple

And a maple pinecone.

s-saw-whet owl 1

But my favorite find of all flew in while I was making my way rather nosily through a dense patch of hemlocks. Another where’s Waldo moment. Do you see it?

s-saw-whet owl 2

Yes, a Northern Saw-whet Owl! A first for me in the wild.

s-saw-whet 3

We shared about ten minutes together and it was definitely an “Oh baby!” occasion (which I reported to Jean Preis for our local Bird Count).

And with that, I’m proud to say, “It’s a boy!” The bird, I’m not sure. But I’m a great aunt to Baby Bud who was born at 12:24 this morning. May he develop a sense of wonder about the natural world and a love for winter.

The owl was the icing on the cake on this special day–Oh baby!