When someone asks why we aren’t snowbirds and migrate to Arizona or California for the winter, Doug and I always reply, “We actually like winter.” Well, we had winter, have winter, and will continue to have winter as April approaches. With almost record snowfalls and no end in sight, we still like winter—perhaps just not so much of it!
The male gophers are out, running around on the snowbanks. Apparently, the male gophers come out of hibernation first to stake their territories. Doug and I saw several hawks yesterday on our drive to High River—unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the usual views of our beautiful foothills because of the fog, mist, light snow—pick your choice of late wintry conditions. Those hawks were scanning for gophers in their territories while the gophers were out trying to establish their territories. Conflicts in the non-human family as well as the human family are often about land!
Back at home, between 50-60 common redpolls frantically feed at and under the two bird feeders on our back deck. Usually they have left by now—returning to more northern climates in preparation for summer nesting. The chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches take their turns at the feeders. They all scatter when the blue jays and magpies move in. I’ve even been letting those big birds linger longer than I usually do before chasing them away—they too have had a long, hard winter.
I know spreading seeds on the deck surface will draw rodents, but I do it anyway because not all the birds fit on the feeders. Besides, the rodents are already here—a brown squirrel, a black squirrel, and a black squirrel with a white stripe on its tail. They perform acrobatics in an attempt to get at the ‘squirrel-proof’ feeders if all the scattered seeds are gone. (Yes, I do know the difference between a black squirrel with a white stripe and a skunk—the latter may come up on the deck as well, I just don’t see it!) A weasel visits periodically, and a very large raccoon occasionally comes at night to tip the one feeder it can get to and drain it of all seed.
A young mule deer just walked along the sidewalk in front of the den windows, paused and looked in at me as if to ask what I was doing, or maybe how much longer winter would last. We’ve had three to four mule deer permanently move into our yard this winter while a large number of others are seen in the ravine. The deer watch us through the walk-out windows when we’re downstairs. Our grandchildren have enjoyed face-to-face encounters with the deer—only the glass in the windows separate. It’s almost as if the deer are asking to be invited into the house. I watched as the deer first ate any bits of surviving perennials, then munched on the mugo pines, trimmed the dogwoods, and so on. I don’t protest because the deer are hungry, but I know I will be saying some choice words as I scoop up the pebbles they leave behind before, or when, I kneel in those flowerbeds.
We haven’t seen the moose, but two of our neighbors report that the moose are on our back path and in our garden area. Last year we scooped up so much moose poop in the spring that when our daughter-in-law asked our granddaughter what she’d done at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s that day, she replied, “I found moose poop for Grandpa to shovel.” We also frequently reminded the grandchildren that although it might look like chocolate Easter eggs, those leavings definitely were not!
I saw several flocks of starlings yesterday, picking up what food they could along the edges of the roads where snowplows had created a narrow band of clearing. Our bird houses are waiting to be cleaned—usually we do them no later than mid-March in preparation for the return of the male mountain bluebirds “to check out the real estate,” as my father used to say. I read that it’s actually the female who makes the final choice. That explains why I see the flashy mountain bluebird males going from bird house to bird house and not moving in until the females arrive. “Make a choice before the tree swallows arrive,” I have often thought, but I know it doesn’t work that way. Out of the twelve birdhouses specifically designed for bluebirds on the fence posts on our acreage, usually one or two have mountain bluebird nests; the rest are tree swallows. Between the birds and the brown bats, we don’t have mosquitos in our yard!
You’ve probably figured out that the reason we haven’t cleaned the bird houses is that we can’t get to them. The snow is up to my knees—up to my hips in some places—and it’s snowing again as I write this Musing. I just hope the mountain bluebirds wait another week or so and that we have a slow, steady melt. The last thing southern Alberta needs is flooding.
The weather forecast is for more snow. The good part—and there’s always a good part when it comes to Canadians talking about the weather—is that it wasn’t minus 27 degrees Celsius here this morning like it was at Wakaw Lake, Saskatchewan, where our cabin will be still hunkered down for winter.
Happy Easter everyone even though it looks more like I should be saying Merry Christmas. I hope you don’t lose any chocolate Easter eggs in the snowbanks.