The Kickapoo River Valley provides many magnificent views when it's draped in snow

The Kickapoo River Valley provides many magnificent views when it’s draped in snow

The week’s weather was warmer, not comfortable, but at least tolerable. The temperature stayed below freezing every day but one. Sunday it was sunny and 36°. Not sure why it was so nice for just one day unless it was somebody’s birthday. I’ll bet that’s what it was.

The warmer weather brought some snow; by the end of the week there were seven new, fluffy inches of white to add to the foot or better already there. It’s been wonderful weather for skiing, especially under the bright, white, full moon. If not for recent trouble with my right knee, I would have been out there sliding along on the powdery snow.

Turkeys gather to eat under the cedars, where the snow isn't so deep

Turkeys gather to eat under the cedars, where the snow isn’t so deep

The turkeys have been showing up more often in the valley. They always prefer to stay on the ground, even when the snow is hard to walk through. Grouped together, they search for food under the thick boughs of the cedar trees. There is less snow on the ground under the cedars, a good place for the turkeys to scratch. The past two evenings I watched the flock, about twenty birds, as they flew up to roost in the big oaks for the night. I’ve always enjoyed watching and listening to the turkeys as they put up to roost on a quiet evening. One at a time they fly up to a desired branch in an oak tree with their huge wings clapping and flapping as they fly almost straight up, sometimes forty or fifty feet. They rarely perch close to each other but they are close enough to hear each other, and with that there is safety in numbers. By morning the hungry turkeys will sail off across the valley to a place where the morning sun will warm the hillside. Then their daily search for food begins. At night, when it is very cold, the turkeys will tuck their heads under a wing to keep warm. While searching for food in below-zero weather, a turkey may stop occasionally and stick its featherless head under a wing for 10-20 seconds, just to warm it a bit.

Long past its days in service, a bridge over the Kickapoo reminds me of slower times

Long past its days in service, a bridge over the Kickapoo reminds me of slower times

The old, rusty, iron bridge which spans the Kickapoo River between La Farge and Viola is no longer part of the active road, or it probably would have been torn down a long time ago. No matter what time of the year, the decrepit bridge is a pathway to the past, a time when a burden wasn’t so heavy and a crossing was approached more slowly.

Even though snow has covered much of the deer’s food, they look to be in fine condition and well fed. There is no crust on the surface of the snow so they can paw down to the grass and corn below. I’ve been watching them sniff out apples under the snow, one of their very favorite treats.

Ground-feeding juncos must eat constantly through the cold, cold winter days

Ground-feeding juncos must eat constantly through the cold, cold winter days

A dozen or so juncos have joined the 35 that were already at the bird feeders each day. When the snow gets a crust on it I’ll throw some cracked corn out over the hard surface then the birds can spread out a little as they eat. This winter the broom has gotten a workout sweeping snow so I can throw out some seed.

The blue jays are among the first to fly off to their roost each evening and the cardinals are last to leave the feeders. Often it’s almost dark when the last of the red birds leave.

The red-breasted nuthatch pays a return visit to my suet feeder

The red-breasted nuthatch pays a return visit to my suet feeder

It was a bright sunny morning and I was relaxing and watching the birdfeeders with a nice cup of tea. I noticed a little red-breasted nuthatch at one of the suet feeders. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks, so it was good to see him again. Then, to my surprise, there were two, and they were intent on getting their share of the suet. The red-breasted nuthatch may be the smallest bird I see in the winter, no bigger than the goldfinch.

A muffled, rattling sound woke me from a sound sleep Sunday night. It was coming from just outside the bedroom window only a few feet from my pillow. I knew what it was but I got up to peek out the window anyway. A deer was standing in the moonlight and pulling at the morning glory vines on the side of the house. She was interested in eating the morning glory seeds but had to pull the vines down to reach them. I stood still and watched her for 10 minutes and she never knew I was there. The beautiful purple and pink flowers that provided food for bees and hummingbirds in the summer are now providing food for deer and deer mice.

Naturally Yours,

Dan