Cold weather brings new look to area wildlife

Nora rests in a carpet of leaves at Rooks Park

Nora rests in a carpet of leaves at Rooks Park Don Davis



Seven sparrows stood on the edges of a frozen-over bird bath. They pecked the ice and looked about, apparently for the deliverer of fresh water.

“Poor birds,” Darlene said, warm in her chair before the window.

She sipped her coffee.

Treading to the porch in white socks, I stabbed with a kitchen knife the thin ice into floating bits.

Nora the Schnauzer slipped out before the door closed and chased birds from the bleak rhododendron.


Back inside I reminisced of warmer times, before big November winds, when trees had spread ankle-deep carpets of gold, ruby and russet leaves beneath their dancing boughs and fields had tan and red hues.

About days not all dark and grey.

Nora and I made our usual fall tours of Pioneer Park, Rooks Park and the trails around Bennington Lake.

Although a leaf sweeper worked at Pioneer Park, wide and deep swaths of leaves garlanded the grass. Squirrels darted ahead, scampered up trees and teased Nora by creeping close, just out of reach.

With posted names for trees long lost, I may name a few of the leaves, such as: maple, sycamore (London plain tree?), oak and sweet gum. And perhaps the dark-red sumac.

And there are needle droppers, such as the tall, young redwoods.

One man walked with a black, giant dog of about 200 pounds. He called it Adonis and said it was a European Great Dane.

And, on a sunny day, we watched happy children climb on the pioneer wagon sculpture.

Rooks Park also had thick layers of leaves, mainly cottonwood, I think. Nora nosed through them, sticking them to her legs and head.

For three days, I watched a piliated woodpecker foraging high among cottonwood limbs.

To locate it, I tilted an ear at the playground, listening for a thump-thump-thump and following the sound.

While following Whitetail Trail and the lakeside paths at Bennington Lake (maps are available trailheads), we crossed vivid gold-colored fields and shady thickets. We counted many birds, including a winter-white male harrier that rose from the tall grass, 15 yards away, and swooped nearby in figure-eights while I smiled.

Woodpeckers and chickadees flitted among the thickets around the lake.

Dozens of dark lead-sinker shapes, but live robins, dropped from the sky to flutter their wings and settle into naked cottonwood trees.

Then, Darlene said something about filling up the birdbath with fresh water.

“Put on your coat,” I suggested.


Contact Don Davis at More of Don’s photos can be found online at .


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