No more perfectly elegant punctuation of the season’s change could be than the storm we witnessed this weekend; a reminder that nature has power to get the attention of even the most comfortable of us, and that though our calendars may be arbitrary and laced with the names of dead gods and emperors, the patterns that underlie them are solid and real.

Of course, it’s one thing to observe this power and another thing to live in it. Storms are exciting and lend significance to life when you merely observe, or come safely through the edges… not so much when you get whomped with the full force. Just ask any resident of New Orleans or Galveston. So I was impressed by the snow and sudden cold; the birds, with coping skills honed by evolution, were mostly just interested in staking their place at whatever table they could find. The feeders in the Ramble, for instance.

But first, we looked for Owls.

Yes, in an excess of that strange elation that comes with first snowfall, I’d sort of talked up the possibility of Long-eared Owls in the park to maybe just a slightly exagerrated degree. So we entered the park, magnificently frosted and looking picturesque, and wandered the Pinetum for some time, peering into the trees and eagerly scanning snowy lumps, squirrels’ nests, squirrels, and large pinecones for any signs of owlitude. Any occasional Blue Jay called, but not in an angry, “Here’s an Owl!” way; a few Mourning Doves and the usual plethora of White-throated Sparrows rounded out the scene.

Alas, a solstice Owl was not to be ours.

So off to the Ramble we went, stopping along the way to say hi to the locust grove Red-headed Woodpecker, who obligingly perched just over our heads. Also over our heads, Canada Geese winged south, arguing vigorously about who had had the bright idea of staying north this long.

The Ramble in Winter

The Ramble in Winter

The feeders were jammed; not even a drive-by by a young, brown-tailed Red-tailed Hawk could dissuade the masses of Goldfinches and Titmice that crowded every feeder. A few Chickadees and House Finches jockeyed for position among them, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker checked the trees for stray flecks of peanut butter. I scanned eagerly for a Pine Siskin, but that was not to be either.

But the bird attracting the most attention from passers-by, far more than the Red-headed Woodpecker or even the Red-tailed Hawk, was without a doubt the Central Park Wild Turkey, now fully refeathered and looking slick to greet the new season.

Lookin Good!

Lookin' Good!

It’s important to face cold, dark days in your best form. That’s why we celebrate. That’s why we feast.

The Solstice Trip on Birdstack
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