Ivy, moss and birds of January

Day 2 of 2014 Nature Notes. (What is this?)

Ivy and Moss gathered in January

Above is a picture Edith Holden drew of ivy and moss collected in her area. Like I mentioned earlier, I won’t be doing any drawing. So, I took a hike to see what I could find of ivy and moss in my area.

Ivy covered tree

After walking around in the snow – and almost breaking my neck slipping around on our frozen-over streets (we don’t salt our roads here, it’s bad for the environment) – I first found this ivy-covered tree in front of an abandoned house. So far, no moss was found.

Ivy under holly tree

After almost skating down a hill while heading home, I came across a large holly tree with ivy growing all over the ground right underneath. Still no moss.

About an hour after I set out to achieve hypothermia, I was finally home. I had found ivy, but I was disappointed with not finding any moss. Then, in the front yard of my next door neighbor, I found a tree with both ivy and moss.

Ivy and moss at base of tree

That’s right, my next door neighbor. I had been too busy re-wrapping my face with my scarf while looking like Bambi learning how to walk that I completely didn’t notice my surroundings. And why hadn’t I seen this tree before? I mean, I knew this tree was here, but I hadn’t really looked at it before.

I took that as a cue that I needed to look at my surroundings a bit more. I figured, since I was completely numb by then, I could keep going to see what else I could find. And because I was numb, I stayed in my backyard (safety first!).

Ivy growing on side of hill

Of course, I have my own fair share of ivy growing in my own backyard. The entire downward slope of our hill leading to the lake is covered with it.

frozen lake

It had been below freezing for a few weeks, so the lake was nice and frozen. Around the corner on the left I kept seeing a kid running out onto the water. I couldn’t get a good shot of him, but after a while of watching I realized he was wearing ice skates and carrying a hockey stick. After listening for a few seconds I realized that there was definitely a few kids playing ice hockey on the other side.

ice crust at edge of lake

The sun was setting, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. I made my way back to the house, but not without noticing the way the ice was sitting on the rocks. There was definitely a raised crust of ice. The ice itself was literally standing a foot up in the air at the shore line. It was crazy looking. I could almost see under the ice to the lake bed itself!

Well, that was it of my evening adventure. In addition to pictures drawn by Edith Holden, she also documented the types of birds she saw at this time of year:

There are some birds which are purely winter visitors to these islands, arriving in the autumn and leaving for more northern lands with the approach of spring. Such among the smaller birds are the Fieldfare, Redwing, Mountain finch, Snow bunting, Grosbeak and Grey Shrike. These birds never or rarely breed in Britain. The Field-fare and Redwing nest in the large birch and pine forests of Sweden and Norway. These countries as well as Iceland, Lapland and Russia are the summer home of the Snow-bunting and Mountain Finch, while the Grosbeak and Grey Shrike are also met with in North America. The two latter birds are very rare in England.” – Edith Holden.

snow bunting

Snow bunting

There are some birds in our area that we only see during the winter as well. Unfortunately they like to hang out on the other side of the lake keeping me from getting good pictures of them. But I’m determined.

The birds in abundance right now are Canada Geese, Mallards, Common Mergansers, Ring-billed Gulls, and Swans. Bald Eagles can also be seen at this time since their winter breeding ground is nearby.

Wintering bald eagle

Bald Eagle

I’ll try for some good pics of our wintering water birds next time. Until then, enjoy this very winter-y poem Edith quoted in her book. It makes you cold just to read. But that’s okay. It’s January, and January is supposed to be cold.

“Welcome, wild North –easter!
Shame it is to see
Odes to every zephyr;
Ne’er a verse to thee.

Welcom, black North-easter!
O’er the German foam;
O’er the Danish moorland
From thy frozen home.

Sweep the golden reed-beds,
Crisp the lazy dyke:
Hunger into madness
Every plunging pike.

Through the black fir-forest
Thunder harsh and dry,
Shattering down the snow-flakes
Off the curdled sky.”

C. Kingsley –
Ode to the East Wind


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