A naturalist in southern Ontario was observing an osprey near a small northern lake when suddenly it drifted from its perch, flew over the water, stopped and hovered in mid-air as is the way with that species, then plunged feet first to capture its prey.
Now, six months later we are standing on that same pond, our boots sunk shin-deep in snow on ice that is at least 33 cm (1 ft.) thick. The summer-scape is barely recognizable in this world of white. The deciduous trees stand naked, their leaf buds prepared for the spring thaw. The skirts of the spruce are layered in snow, bearing the burden of winter snow and cold. Where is the life that brimmed this community not so long ago?
A red fox works its way slowly across a snow-covered meadow. It pauses occasionally, cocks its head in the classic listening pose as it stares at the snow. Finally it stops again, crouches low and then leaps high into the air landing with its front feet first. It buries its muzzle in the snow and emerges with a vole, a meadow mouse, that struggles briefly then is gone
How do they do it? How can natures own survive the brutality that we call winter? As beautiful as it is, it is equally as deadly. While the snow insulates, it blocks easy access to food supplies and any effort to gain food uses precious energy. Any walk in the forest at this time of year causes one to wonder where the wildlife is.
We have more than a few feeders at our place. We do something for the birds and they do something for us in return by showing up. Our most popular feeder is what is termed a platform feeder. Friend Jim makes his by putting a slab of 4 by 8 chipboard on his picnic table and sprinkling sunflower seeds on it. We use a similar size piece of wood and support it on the deck railing. Birds love it. We also have a saucer feeder, hanging tube-style feeders and another smaller platform feeder.
It has been more than ten years since the first nature column appeared in the local newspaper and this week we continue summarizing our experiences over the last decade. The more I delved into the nature surrounding us, the more exciting the journey became.