Neither Snow, Nor Freezing Rain, Nor Sleet . . .

Church was cancelled this morning and it seemed like the perfect day to stay inside, read the newspaper, complete the crossword puzzle, and keep an eye on the bird feeders.

And so I did. Among my feathered friends was a Tufted Titmouse that seemed to stand back and consider the offerings,

a Junco that chose the thistle,

and an Eastern Starling who made quick work of the suet. For those who aren’t fans of the Starling, this was the first of the season and actually four flew in today. I have to say I’m rather taken by their coloration.

Of course, not one to go unnoticed, a red squirrel came out of its tunnel below one of the feeders and looked about as if to say either, “Hey lady, where’d you hide the peanuts?” or “Hey lady, when are you going to come out and play?” I preferred to think it was the latter and so I headed out the door.

Because of the weather, I chose a baseball hat for headgear so the visor would keep the snow off my glasses. And then I did what I always do when wearing a baseball cap–I forgot to look up and bumped into the pergola. Boink.

But, the pain was momentary and so I continued on. Soon I realized I wasn’t the only one who had responded to the call to head outdoors. Quite often mammals leave behind sign that tells me who has passed by and I wasn’t disappointed for today I found signatures . . . of Eddie, Annie, Emma, and Veronica.

I wondered if I might find their creators. Was Eddie the mink that had slid and bounded just moments before and left fresh prints?

I followed his tracks in hopes of catching a glimpse and knew he’d passed under a fallen tree and traveled along a brook.

He’d also paused briefly beside an opening, but it appeared that rather than enter the water to forage as he could have done, he continued on. And so did I, meeting his tracks quite often, but never spying the mink that he was.

Any other tracks I spied were diluted by the precipitation, and so I turned my attention to the mushrooms that had donned their winter caps. From the false tinkerconk to . . .

the tinkerconk,

hemlock varnish shelf,

and red-belted polypore, all appeared to have shopped at the same hat boutique.

Traveling through these woods on such a day with not a soul about made me ever mindful of the transition taking place as snow gave way to freezing rain and then sleet.

But it didn’t bother the female mallard that flew in and landed right below me.

Nor did it bother me. In fact, I loved it. I know the advent of frost heaves and potholes along our roadways are signs that spring is around the corner and even today’s weather was an indicator, but I don’t want winter to end just yet.

Neither snow, nor freezing rain, nor sleet . . . can keep the squirrel or me from digging our way out of our tunnels.

Mondate Made for Ducks

We didn’t know what we were going to do when the day dawned in all shades of gray.  With the forecast suggesting thunderstorms in almost any hour, we decided it wouldn’t be a day for boating or hiking.

w1-Wolfeboro

Finally, after chores, errands, and lunch, we drove a wee bit west and then south to Lake Winnipesaukee, my old stomping grounds of almost forty years ago. On the way, we passed through variations of the same theme: gray skies, gentle raindrops, flash downpours. But when we arrived, though the raindrops still fell, blue sky and a slew of clouds offered a beautiful mottled reflection upon the water’s surface.

w2-Wolfeboro sign

We’d decided to explore Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, a town with a year-round population not much bigger than our own. Like all resort towns in New England, however, it swells in size during the summer months. The same is true here in Maine. And on rainy days, the downtown is always full.

w3--approaching the water

Despite all the tourists, the locals do like to hang out at their favorite spots.

w3-mallard looking down

And check on all the action.

w4-on the dock

Some prefer to preen.

w5-reaching under the wing

Can’t you just feel the goodness of this action–grooming those feathers to keep them in the best condition?

w6-even deeper under the wing

With so many feathers to cope, whether to moisturize with oil to keep them flexible and strong, to align for waterproofing and insulation–especially against the heat of the summer sun, to arrange aerodynamically for future flights, or to remove parasites and body lice that may carry diseases, it’s all part of a day’s work on the waterfront.

w7-in the lake

Even those in the water, both mallards and American black ducks, were not immune to the action of the hour.

w8-taking a bath

In order to reach every feather and nibble or stroke it from base to tip to get it aligned just so, ducks become contortionists as they assume odd positions.

w9-shaking it off

And after, they shake, shake, shake, their feathers falling into place as if according to a greater plan.

w9-meeting Daffy

As the rain subsided and sun shone forth, we did a bit of nibbling ourselves, on ice cream cones. It turned out nibbling on ice cream and any other human food was not allowed for the ducks per signage, but that didn’t keep them from sampling the flora of a nearby park.

w10-nose decorations

One forager in particular, came away with an arrangement that reminded me of the Easter bonnets we used to wear when we were kids. I could almost hear the Irving Berlin song, Easter Parade:

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.

w12-into the hardware store

We left that parade route and made our way through town, pausing as one might expect at the local family-owned hardware store. Of course, my guy felt right at home and spent some time chatting with the owner as they compared products and store layout.

w12-view out the window

I admired the view of the birdhouses on a sill.

w13-signs about town

Back on the road, we noticed one beautiful garden after another in front of each shop and some bore signs worth sharing: May Peace Prevail On Earth. Indeed.

w13-rain

Eventually, the sky opened again and sent forth its refreshing goodness. We’ve been in need of rain as we’ve been experiencing a moderate drought and so celebrated the nourishment it brought to the earth and us as well.

w15-rainsdrops and blue sky

Then, with a mad dash, we ran back to the truck, noting the rain drops juxtaposed against the blue sky.

w16-duck salad

It was certainly a Mondate made for ducks, especially those who liked to wear their bonnets made from foraged salad on their bills.