Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feeling Blue?

I guess I need to start remembering to carry my camera again. Last week, among other things, I missed the most perfect raccoon tracks and some spectacular ice formations. This morning... this morning...

I was out setting up, alone, my tracks the first ones in the thin blanket of freshly fallen -- falling, really -- snow. Though there's not much of it, the new snow is lovely, gently falling, large crystalline flakes. Like the blanket in the snow metaphor that has become cliche, the snow seemed to muffle sounds. It was a peaceful morning. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of movement in a tree. I assumed, when I looked up, that I would see one of the chickadees whose spunky black caps and mournful two-note calls have accompanied me on my morning journeys for the past few weeks. This, though common, would have made me happy. I love my chickadee companions, respect the way they bravely take on winter. But this time, it wasn't them.

Perched not 15 feet away from me were a woodpecker and four bluebirds. Yes, four. Two males, a striking blue, unmistakably bright, with rust colored sides and white bellies, were accompanied by two females dressed in more muted tones. We shares a moment, these four and I, when all of us stopped our actions and just looked at each other. They weren't scared, didn't fly, just sat there, slightly puffy, trying to take in this new creature that wandered into the area. I was close enough that if I'd had my point-and-shoot camera, I could have taken a photo that would have looked like more than just dots in branches... but I didn't. Perhaps this is the universe's way of reminding me that these are special moments meant only for those who are lucky enough to be there, in the perfect time and place, to have them.

Meanwhile, the little downy woodpecker didn't even bother to notice me or the bluebirds in his tree...

Eventually I had to move on, and the bluebirds flew with me for a short while, stopping at trees just ahead of me but not letting me pass. When I turned, they stayed, and I continued my set-up, joined by some chickadees.

(You will note on the range map that the Eastern Bluebird does not spend the winter in northern Illinois. A sign of spring? And another sign of spring... this is the time of year, every year, when I notice the flowers buds of maples (silver, especially) swelling to huge red orbs, and I wonder, were they like that all winter but I wasn't paying attention until now, when I start to look for spring? Or have they really enlarged?)

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