END OF THE SNOW

We have had warmer temperatures this past week so our snow is slowly melting. When it gets to this stage I’d just as soon see it go. Despite the melting, we did get a light dusting on the driveway and sidewalk last Thursday night. We discovered a lot of tracks out in the front when we got up Friday morning. At first I thought it might be the raccoon family that comes around at night, but I think it was just someone’s dog roaming through our yard.

Looks like we also had a few of our feathered friends hopping around.

Saturday morning we took a walk down to Kissel Park. Just outside our front door we saw these beautiful rose bush leaves and branches, covered in snow and ice. We may bemoan the fact that we have to shovel snow and put up with a mess when we go for walks, but one can’t deny the beauty that is there for our enjoyment whenever it snows.

Once we got to the park, Linda pointed out some pretty snow-covered tree branches for me to photograph. The morning was somewhat foggy and the sun was just a hazy dot in the sky.

When we got around to the back side of the park, I was able to get a couple of shots of the hills on the other side of the airport. The dark blue clouds made the hills stand out in contrast.

This picture below shows a lenticular cloud visible in the center of the photo, just above the line of dark blue clouds. This cloud most likely had formed above Mount Adams since it was in that general direction. Lenticular clouds often form above mountains due to the swirling wind currents. Some large disc-shaped clouds have even been mistaken for UFO’s (source: Wikipedia).

We may have seen the end of our snow for the season, or perhaps not. Some years we even get snow at the end of March, so we will just have to wait and see.

BIG BIRD

It’s not often that we get any birds in our yard in the winter other than the usual suspects of sparrows, finches, juncos, and the occasional towhee. So it was very exciting on Saturday when Linda called me to go look out the back window. Sitting right there, about 10 feet away, was an immature Cooper’s Hawk.

He stayed out there about 15 minutes, hopping from one fence post to the other. He was very nearby to our backyard seed feeder, but of course all of the birds knew he was there so they were in hiding. He may have just been sunning himself and not hunting for breakfast, but I am sure he would not have passed up the opportunity. (video below)

Later that afternoon, as we were sitting in the living room reading, I happened to notice something large sitting in our Thundercloud Plum tree in the front yard. Sure enough, there he sat preening himself. I love to watch a hawk preening because usually he will fan his tail out and you can see the tail feathers so well. Yes, he knows he is beautiful! (video below)

The next day, while sitting in the living room, I noticed a hummingbird flying around our red seed feeder in the front yard. I told him, “Go around to the back yard, we have a hummer feeder there!” He must have heard me because later that afternoon as I was getting supper ready, Linda spotted a hummingbird at the hummer feeder on the patio. I was able to catch a look at him, but sadly did not get a picture. We haven’t seen him go back there yet, but of course he could be visiting the feeder when we aren’t watching. This is the first one I’ve had at my feeder since I put it out about a week and a half ago.

PUZZLE UPDATE

We have been continuing to work on puzzles that we have already done at least once before. We ran out of “new” puzzles to do, but we are just glad we have a nice stack of older puzzles to go through. Here is a picture of the last one we completed, named “Quick Stop Diner“. This one was moderately difficult to do, but very enjoyable.

Inside the box for this puzzle I had placed a note from the last time we did it. Indeed there was an extra piece, and Linda said she spent a long time trying to figure out where it went before she saw the note. The extra piece has been returned to its rightful place.

On a good note, we learned last week that Yakima has finally moved to Stage 2 of the Washington state protocol for opening back up. This meant that the Harmon Senior Center was able to reopen. We took a trip up there and got a few “new” puzzles to work on in the coming weeks. We have missed visiting their library and puzzle room. Right now we are working on a puzzle entitled “Cereal Boxes“. I think this is going to prove to be a difficult puzzle. One thing is for sure, it certainly is big!

PARTING SHOT

I told Summer Girl she’d better be careful outside with that big hawk roaming around. He might just decide he wanted to have a Black Ninja Cat for supper! She wisely made the decision to stay inside and on a lap.

HAS THERE EVER BEEN A MORE SWEET-LOOKING FACE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD?

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SNOW DAYS

There has been a lot of news lately about the cold weather across the nation. The winter storm that just hit Texas and other southern states was certainly out of the ordinary and caught the region very unprepared. A few days before that storm hit the South, we had a much smaller storm go through Washington. It brought our best snow in Yakima for the past couple of years. We welcomed all the snow, mainly because it is the source of all of our water here in the desert. The snow pack on the Cascade Mountain Range melts in the spring & summer, and flows into the rivers that run to the eastern side of the state, where Yakima is located. So if we have a low-snow winter, we have a low-water summer.

This particular storm brought us 8″ of snow. I took some pictures of our Spruce tree (I call it our Christmas tree) and our Bird’s Nest Spruce bush. The landscape is so beautiful when it snows.

SNOW ON THE TREES AND BUSHES

THIS WAS EARLY ON, WE GOT A COUPLE MORE INCHES AFTER THIS MEASUREMENT

Of course, we are far better prepared in Yakima for a snow storm than the southern parts of the country. I can tell you from personal experience living in North Carolina (where we only got about an inch of snow every few years), that people in the South do not know how to deal with it. And apparently, people on the western side of Washington State have trouble dealing with it as well. The storm that moved through this past weekend brought a reported 11″ of snow to the Seattle area. It’s a good thing so many people are working from home right now or else they would have had hellacious traffic jams and vehicle accidents. Emily and Wendy sent us some pictures and video of their snow in Seattle and Tacoma. The pretty lady in the pink hat is Emily. She does not know how to take a bad picture.

EMILY’S SNOW PICTURES FROM SEATTLE

Snow fell off of Emily’s roof onto her balcony to a depth of several feet. Not owning a snow shovel, she pushed it off with her hands and feet!

NOT A COMFORTABLE PLACE TO SIT AT THE MOMENT!

Wendy sent over a video of our fur-nephew, Zorro, enjoying the snow. He’s a Labradoodle, and the snow sticks to the fur on his legs, creating the little “pom-poms” that Wendy mentions in the video. She said he loves to eat them off of his legs. Of course Zorro does what any dog does at the very beginning of his walk! (video below)

Z-MAN ENJOYING HIS SNOW!

Our little Isabel Bloom garden figurines that sit on our front porch became little mounds of snow. I know they will be glad when it melts!

ISABEL BLOOM FIGURINES

In the past when it snows we sometimes left our driveway and sidewalk unshoveled. This created a huge problem when we had to drive or walk on it because the packed-down snow became ice. And then it was almost impossible to get it up. Packed-down ice is much heavier than fluffy snow. So this time we tried to keep up with it by shoveling those areas. We had to shovel on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to keep it clear because we kept getting snow overnight. But we managed to do it, and I think we did a pretty good job. One of those days, while we were out there shoveling, I saw a hummingbird go to a feeder in our next door neighbor’s yard. He stayed at it a long time, and then he flew down to the dead stem of a plant and sat there a while. I decided to put my hummingbird feeder out, so after I got back inside I made up some nectar. I have put it out in the morning and brought it in the house at late afternoon each day. So far, I haven’t seen a hummer go to it but I am still hopeful.

A THING OF BEAUTY

During all this, the birds were giving both of our feeders a fit, so I managed to get some pretty good video of the usual suspects. I kept hoping we’d get a Varied Thrush at one of the feeders (like we did a couple years ago when we had a big snow), but it was not to be. I did see a Spotted Towhee making regular visits to both feeders. At first I thought it was Tony Towhee (remember him, without the tail?), but I wasn’t sure because this guy had a long tail. Then, late one evening, I saw two Towhees, and one had a much shorter tail. I think that one was Tony, but I didn’t get any pictures or video of him because it was so dark outside. (video below)

THE BIRDS UNDER THE FEEDER ON FRIDAY, FIRST DAY OF SNOW

While watching the birds out underneath the feeders, it became obvious that there was one little bird who was a feeder-hog. This little guy would always chase away the other birds, like he thought all that seed on the ground was his. I wasn’t sure if he was a Song Sparrow or a Fox Sparrow, so I checked with the BirdYak group, and the consensus was that he is a Song Sparrow. (video below)

BULLYS ARE EVERYWHERE!

The little guy is quite bold. He came onto our back porch and hopped around, at one point getting quite close to the sliding glass door. I tried to video him, but it was a challenge because he is so fast. You can see for yourself the kind of trouble I was having. (video below)

A FAST LITTLE GUY

This video below shows the feeder out in the front yard. Although it appears that the feeder is on fire, that is just the reflection of our fireplace in the window I was filming through. There is more evidence of the little bully fighting off the other birds. (video below)

FEEDERS HAD LOTS OF TRAFFIC

Our feeder in the back has a huge variegated Euonymus bush underneath it that the birds just love to perch on. Most of it was covered with snow, but there were branches sticking up. The birds took turns perching there, awaiting their time to visit the feeder. (video below)

WATCHING AND WAITING

The snow that fell last weekend was the tiniest flakes I think I’ve ever seen, and it made for the fluffiest snow. It was very beautiful for a few days and now it is starting to melt. During the snow, we had high temperatures that were around 21-25 degrees. Next week we have one day that is predicted to get up to 58 degrees for a high. So I guess we have had our snow for 2021.

PARTING SHOT

During all this snow it was hard to get Summer Girl to go outside, and by outside I mean further than two steps out onto the back porch. She’d go out there, sit on the rug in front of the steps, and look out at all that snow…then turn around and want to come back in. So, no, I didn’t get any video of her playing in the snow. I did, however, get a cute picture of her. One afternoon after her walk, Linda was lying on the floor on the back roller. I heard her call me and tell me to bring my camera. This is what I saw.

SHE’S A LAP KITTY IF THERE EVER WAS ONE

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BIG BANG

During recent walks that Linda and I have taken around the neighborhood, I began to notice something a bit odd. It started happening after the first of the year, and I didn’t think anything of it to start with. But as we walked around different places, I began to notice these bullets in the road. I decided to collect them. Of course, this was after I had seen several others that were no longer there when passed by that way again. So far, my collection consists of only the four bullets pictured above. All of them were in the street in various places. It makes me wonder just how they got there. If they could only talk, I bet they would have a very intriguing story to tell. I am guessing that someone got a little bit too trigger-happy on New Year’s Eve, and fired them off. It reminded me of the times that Linda and I would go down to our mobile home at Holden’s Beach, NC. In the summertime we would hear people shooting off guns on the Fourth of July. Not a good practice, though, when there are people around! This certainly does not tend to make one feel safe.

I decided to take a few close up pictures of the bullets. They all look like the same kind of bullet, and they are all way heavier than you would think by looking at their size. I don’t know anything about bullets as far as what kind of gun they may have come from. Anyway, it is interesting to see how mangled they get just from being fired.

IF THEY COULD ONLY TALK…

MORNING VISITOR

CRITTER FIND!

The other morning I heard Linda call me to come into the living room. When I did she pointed me to the Thundercloud Plum tree in our front yard. It took me a few seconds to see anything, but I finally was able to pick out the figure of a hawk sitting there. He was almost the same color as the tree branches so he was hard to spot. He sat there for the longest time, looking towards the East as if he was waiting for the sun to come out. The other birdies were in their safe spot in our huge barberry bush. They know he can’t get them in there, so they were just twittering away, fussing at him. Finally he flew off and the sparrows and finches were able to warily go back to their feeder. (video below)

WAITING ON THE SUN

FUN AND GAMES

We finished a puzzle this past week that I had not worked on very much before. I remember the first time we did this puzzle was way back a couple of years ago when I had pneumonia. Therefore, I didn’t feel like working on it very much. I kind of got it in my head that it was a “difficult” puzzle to do, and sometimes I don’t like that. But it was Linda’s turn to pick out which puzzle we would work on, so she picked the one with artwork by Edward Gorey from 1965, entitled “Untitled.” (How original). Once we started putting this one together, I kind of liked it. It was a difficult puzzle because there are a lot of pieces the same color, but the design was sharp enough that it wasn’t too hard. This one has now earned a spot amongst my “favorite” puzzles.

During the Christmas season of 2020, I did all my shopping either online or at the nearby Rite Aid pharmacy. Luckily, I was able to find enough items there to stuff in Linda’s stocking. I also was able to find a new game for us to play. For some time we have been searching for something else to do besides puzzling. So when I came across this game pictured below, I snapped it up in a heartbeat.

A NEW GAME IN TOWN

The game is called Mancala and is for 2 players. From looking at the box, it seemed to be just what we were looking for. Turns out it is an ancient game from Africa and Asia. It has very simple rules (which we have to keep looking up because we keep forgetting) and is very easy to play. It’s quite relaxing to play, unlike some games that tend to create more stress (Monopoly and such). So far we have been having fun with it. Gotta keep our old minds sharp!

PARTING SHOT

If there is one thing that Summer Girl excels at, it is the fine art of napping. Being a cat, she comes by this instinctively, I believe. You gotta admit, though, that she does look very cute while she is practicing her art!

SHE’S A REAL ARTIST

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MORE WINTER

Well, that furry little rodent (NOT the one in the featured picture above!) came out of his hole and saw his shadow this week, so we are in for six more weeks of winter. Of course, we would be having six more weeks of winter regardless of what the groundhog saw, but that’s the way it goes. It looks like, for yet another year, all of our major snow has gone to the Northeast. No way I would have wanted as much snow as they have gotten, but a little bit more would be nice. I’m wondering if we will get anymore, though. We were supposed to have a couple of big snows last week, but one of them wasn’t as big as predicted, and the other one fizzled out and became drizzle. Still, we did get some snow on the ground for a few days, for which I was thankful.

Last Friday, Linda and I took a walk down to Kissel Park. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground, so I got some video to share with you (video below).

Getting to the park and back home was very much a struggle, as the roadway was covered with ice in most spots. I had to resort to wearing my boots with the Yaktrax (link here) on them.

YAKTRAX – Chains for your shoes

ICY ROAD LEADING TO PARK

On Sunday, January 31st, we decided to go back to the Arboretum to check out things at the Bird Blind. We took a large Ziploc bag of sunflower seeds with us, just in case there weren’t any seeds in the trash can there at the blind. When we arrived at the Arboretum, we walked around the pond first. It was mostly frozen over and there were no birds on it. However, it was still beautiful.

YAKIMA ARBORETUM POND

We headed straightaway to the bird blind, and upon arriving there discovered that the trash can was full of bird seed. We scattered some of our sunflower seeds around and then dumped the rest of it in the trash can. I was anxious to see if the unfamiliar bird I saw last week was still there. He appeared in one of my videos on last week’s blog, and here is a picture of him below.

UNFAMILIAR BIRD AT THE BIRD BLIND LAST WEEK

Since last week I had found out just what kind of bird this was. I had thought he was a Spotted Towhee of some kind, due to his dark head. But I had not noticed that the red eye was not apparent on this bird, like it is on the Towhee. Anyway, I emailed the BirdYak group to get help with this identification. Jeff Kozma, TFW Wildlife Biologist and resident bird expert, answered me and said that this was an Oregon Junco, most likely a hybrid due to the gray mottling on the flanks. He said that he remembered banding this bird. He went on to say that the Oregon Junco is a subspecies in Washington of the Dark-Eyed Junco. I have included another picture of the hybrid bird below, and under that is a picture of a regular Oregon Junco. There is not a whole lot of difference between the two birds, although the hybrid did seem to be a bit bigger, in my opinion.

OREGON JUNCO HYBRID

OREGON JUNCO – SUBSPECIES OF DARK-EYED JUNCO

Unfortunately, the Oregon Junco hybrid bird was not at the blind. Linda pointed out the chart that is posted there to help people identify the birds they are likely to see at the blind. I took a short video of the chart, and you will see almost all of these birds in my video that follows it, plus a few other birds…and a squirrel. Gotta have a squirrel! (two videos below)

After spending some time at the blind, we decided to walk on the Greenway to get moving so we wouldn’t be so cold. We saw tons of geese flying around, coming from and going to the small lake beside the walking path. (video below)

On our way back by the bird blind to give it a quick check before leaving, we ran across a lot of footprints in the snow.

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SNOW

These prints probably belonged to a group of birds we had seen earlier at the blind. Although they are not listed on the Bird Chart, and we do not see them every time we are at the blind, they are still a very common bird here in Yakima. I am talking about the California Quail. These large, rotund birds are always a joy to see! (video below)

Even though our second snow of the week didn’t materialize, I was still happy with what we had already gotten. It stayed around a few days and then slowly melted. In the next week our weather is predicted to be in the high 50’s! I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t break a record for high temperatures soon. So far this winter, our lowest temperatures have been in the teens, which is a far cry from when we first moved here and had temps below zero! Things have certainly changed in the past 13 years.

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl hopped up onto the windowsill one morning and was so cute watching the birds outside the window. Of course, I missed getting the best part when she was trying to “catch” them, but what I did manage to video is still just darling. She can be quite the little cutie-pie when she wants to. (video below)

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CH-CH-CHANGES

EMIL KISSEL PARK

The picture above was taken on Sunday, January 17th, on our walk down at Kissel Park. It was quite foggy that day and the park took on a mysterious, almost spooky look. It was a welcome sight because it was something different from all the brown on brown on brown that we usually have here in Yakima during the winter.

Then, a few days later on January 22nd, we had an even bigger change in the appearance of the landscape.

SNOW ON THE HILLS

The hills on the other side of the airport, visible from Kissel Park, had a light covering of snow. We actually had about 2 inches of snow that day even down here in the valley, but it melted before the end of the day.

Yesterday we had a prediction for more snow overnight. We woke up this morning to an absolutely gorgeous sight.

THE VIEW FROM OUR FRONT PORCH

Linda went out to our patio to measure the snow and it was at 4 inches. This is more than we have had at one time in the last couple of years. Before last night’s snow we were at the same point in accumulation so far this season (6″) as we were for the entirety of last year’s snow season. So we jumped ahead quite a bit last night, and there is more predicted for the next day or so.

LET’S SIT FOR A SPELL!

Below is a link to a YouTube video originally posted by Joseph Noise. It is a song composed and played by Tim Story, and is featured on several of the Windham Hill albums. I wanted to share this song with you because it always reminds me of when I was little and would awake in the morning to snow…which was very rare where we lived in North Carolina. The calmness of this song is just perfect.

I’m going to include a couple of videos below that I took early this morning. They are kind of dark but the second one shows the snow still falling.

We decided to forego our walk this morning. A couple of days ago it was really cold, but we took our walk anyway. Here is a picture of my walking outfit. Yes, I am under all that clothing somewhere.

YAKIMA WINTER OUTFIT

Even though I am covered up from head to toe, I can guarantee you that somewhere in Yakima, there is someone walking around in shorts and flip flops. I kid you not, we have seen it ourselves. I always say that they must have been born and raised here, so they are used to it. I don’t know how they do it, though.

That same day we passed by the meadow and there was our horse-friend, grazing on the grass. He undoubtedly is a native Yakimanian, too.

THAT’S ONE COLD HORSE

PARTING SHOT

I looked throughout the entire house for the little girl to get a picture of her for her spot. She was nowhere to be found, so I am guessing that she is holed up in her house on the back porch. I think she likes to go there sometimes to get away from us. At any rate, here is a picture of her from May of 2015, and you can tell she hasn’t aged a day.

SHE LOOKS SO SWEET! (but we all know looks can be deceiving)

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

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