I woke up on Tuesday morning and the first thing I did was to look up the weather report for the day. It read, in a big bright white number, ‘4‘. I felt like I was freezing already, even before stepping outside, simply by looking at that number. It was one of those days when you just want to role over in bed and drift back to sleep to dream of sandy beaches and the warmth of the sun on your face. I accept the reality of my life in the Midwest (mmm…I have only lived here 99.5% of my life) and so I get on with the day. Did I say brrrr yet? Brrrrrrrrrrr!
This area had received snow showers for a couple of days on and off, only accumulating around 3-4 inches of snow, just enough to make everything pristine white again. I had been wanting to take a walk along the trail I frequent to hopefully photograph some of the usual suspects of birds for this area and where most days you will find cardinals crisscrossing their way along the trail. I bundled up (so much so I could barely move, like the kid in “The Christmas Story”), put on my monster clodhopper Sorel boots and YakTrax. I headed out, mentally preparing myself, for what was going to be a very slow walk and the fact that I was going to freeze my butt, fingers, toes and face off.
As I am pulling up to the trail parking lot, there was one other car already there. The engine was running indicated by the plume of smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. I pull up and park my car 2 spots down from this car and as I turned my head to glance over at it, the gentleman in the car waved “hi”. I smiled and waved back. He had that frozen face look as if he had just finished his walk/ run and was heading out. It was now going to be just me and the trail all to ourselves.
The snow showers had led up, the sky was clearing and the sun had come out to warm things up a (tiny) bit as I set out for my walk. At first all you can concentrate on was how cold it was, not Siberia cold, but that wind chill was still in the -minus category. It takes me a few minutes to get use to the cold temps, but, then my mind shifts and I begin to take note of my surroundings. I notice the foot prints the gentleman from the car I parked next to had left behind, the sound of my YakTrax crunching on the snow covered pavement, watching the snow lightly floating around me and the faint sound of sweet tweets signaling birds are near by.
If you listen carefully, the silence is beautiful.
I had stopped for a moment to adjust my camera and when I looked up, there were cardinals, sparrows and black-capped juncos perched along the chain linked fence pecking at the bread that someone places on the fence to feed the birds. (Some of it looks like pizza to me and it isn’t the first time I have seen birds eating pizza that has been placed on this fence. I just don’t get it. Why would you want to feed birds sausage and pepperoni? That just seems wrong to me. Why mess with nature like that?) Sorry, I digressed.
This young male Downy woodpecker decided to show up and puts on a show for me not bothered by the fact that I was just a few feet away from him with this huge camera lens staring up at it. I thought to myself it was going to be a good day for photographing along the trail.
Spot the sparrow in the picture.
At this point I am almost at the 1 1/2 mile marker. I had been out in the cold for well over an hour and I needed to turn around and head back towards my car. The clouds were starting to move back in and it had begun to start snowing again. (The light snow captured in the photograph almost looks like stars shining in clear daylight.) That was all about to change in a few minutes.
And few minutes later here comes another snow shower, but, they sure do make for a pretty photograph.
When I came up on this scene it took my breath away (literally). I had never seen so many cardinals in one tree like this before. This picture doesn’t do the moment justice. I was too close to use the long lens I was using to photograph birds with and by the time I would switch out the lens, I am sure the moment would be gone. There were at least 8 cardinals on this tree.