January has come in cold for a few days after a warm spell (if you consider 35 degrees F warm, that is!). But it has snowed, the temperatures have dropped, and today I saw a mute swan swimming on the bay near the snow-covered beach. It glided silently along, beautiful.
A couple of days later, the weather warmed up again to an unbelievable, balmy 42 degrees (F). It felt like spring, with the ice and snow melting, creating puddles everywhere, making my boots go “squish, squish” when I go out to put seed in the bird feeder. As I watch, a chickadee who is a regular at the feeder comes and gets a seed, keeping a close eye on me at the same time.
There is a titmouse who hangs out with the chickadees as part of the “pack” (and yes, there is a pack, with about 15 chickadees lining up to eat in the morning when I come out). The titmouse is larger than the chickadees, and they give way to him; but he is shy around humans and flies away quickly whenever I come near. I am hoping that he will take the cue from his more gregarious neighbors, and find out that I mean no harm. The chickadees are certainly accustomed to me now, and I hear their “beep beeps” and “dee dee dee” calls all day long whenever I go outside.
Of course, the days get cold again, since it IS January in northeast Michigan. Lake Huron begins icing over, and one day I saw a gull out on the ice forming on the water. I have often wondered how they and the other birds, such as the geese that come by each day, stay warm in this chilly weather. I guess there’s a reason why geese have such soft, insulating down! But how do they keep their legs and feet warm in that icy water? I need to look this up.
On a trip south, I saw an amazing sight. There was a juvenile eagle being chased by two gulls! I didn’t catch the second gull, they were flying too fast, but I never realized that a gull can put an eagle, which is much larger, to flight.
Just a bit further away, I saw what I assume is its brother or sister sitting on the ice, watching me as I watched the scene going on above.
The next day, I saw an adult eagle in a tree. He gave me a severe look, and I didn’t get too close, because I didn’t want him to fly away. The tree makes a good perch for looking around for mice, voles and other possible food.
I have not had much time to bird watch this month, because one of my very closest friends (who also loves birds, and often goes with me to find them) is struggling with breast cancer. Since I was a nurse for years, she has asked me to go with her to her doctor’s visits to later “translate” the medical information for her, and because of the stress causing it to be difficult to remember everything. These are the visits where the doctor tells you the things you never want to hear, with words like “invasive”, “lymph node involvement”, and lots of tests for “staging” the cancer. I am choosing to spend much of my spare time after work to support her, and so have far fewer photos this months, but the knowledge that I am helping her through this time. We are believing God for a full healing, and are praying quite a bit with each other, and others.
The weather during the third week of January has warmed up again, melting the snow and turning the world brown (as in mud that sticks and clings to everything, especially my car, which my friends and I have dubbed the “mud puppy” until I can take it to the car wash. But since the roads are pure mud and water, I need to wait for things to dry up a bit, or it will look muddy as soon as I drive it home. This is one of the small annoyances of country living off a dirt road. But the beautiful sights more than make up for it. As I am driving home from a hospital visit, I see a red-tailed hawk sitting on a fence. I often see him in this area, and will go down this road just to get a peek at him. The fence overlooks a gravel quarry, and there are plenty of open areas nearby that must be full of prey, because the hawks like to visit this spot.