Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ice Blues

One morning last month, just before sunrise, the temperature plunged to -2 degrees. That's not so unusual for this time of year, but this particular morning brought with it one of my favorite winter phenomena:  rime ice (also known as hoarfrost, ice fog, and rime frost). Every inch of every branch, stem and tree trunk, shimmered and glistened with a soft coating of white jagged ice. 

It was a spectacular, foggy, winter wonderland against crisp blue skies. On some surfaces it was thick as snow while on others it appeared to be growing in sharp spikes.

Winter birding was a challenge.  However, a family of seven lovely, little bluebirds have been with us all winter, feeding on berries in the garden and singing from the trees. Brilliant blue against the white snow and the red berries of the winterberry bush, they flit away from the stingy starlings and manage to out-wit the sneaky cats. At night, I find them huddled in the eaves outside our bedroom window and checking on them has become my bedtime ritual. 

Usually all I can see is a tail or two high up in the corner, but many nights one adult is sleeping separately from the group, alone on a ledge but tucked in against the weather. About two weeks ago, however, they stopped coming in to roost even though it is still windy and cold. Are these bluebirds winter birds who have since started their way north? Or are these the same bluebirds we have here in the summer? (will there be seven?) And if so, where ARE they right now? I miss their cheery songs and the promise of spring!

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