Pat’s Bits & Pieces- No signs of spring yet!!

Pat Maurer, Review Correspondent

Our winter cold snap is continuing with only a couple brief forays by the mercury up into the 30s over the past two weeks. The thermometer keeps flirting with zero, making it hard for me to justify a trip anywhere outside of this house…

Although it hardly ever happens, the Tobacco, just upstream from our bridge is frozen over for about 30 feet, the second time already this winter.

It has been cold. Guess we are getting paid back for a mild winter last year, early spring, and a long warm fall.

One positive note is the sunshine we have been enjoying lately. It’s certainly not warm out there but at least the sun is making an appearance almost every day. It makes February, the month I like the least of all, a little easier to bear.

There’s not a lot do lately, but cold winter days are great ones for bird watching. We have had a lot of fun watching all of the activity at the feeders lately, so much that Jack is filling the three feeders every other day now and replacing the suet cakes about every four days. The squirrels are mostly blamed for how fast those seeds disappear. We have one each of a gray, black and fox squirrel here every day and at least four different red squirrels who are out there stuffing themselves morning and evening when they aren’t fighting amongst themselves. Their antics are hilarious as they try to drive each other away from the goodies. They don’t even like to share with the birds, let alone each other.

One other new visitor we have had is a pileated woodpecker who has been frequenting our birdfeeders – and the suet cakes – for the last few days. He seems to be a small version or maybe a young bird, but next to the blue jays, chickadees, cardinals and finches who are our regular luncheon guests, he is a giant and when he shows up, the squirrels disappear for a while.

Pileated Woodpeckers are pretty unique. Adults are usually the size of a large crow. They are mostly black with white stripes on the face and neck and a flaming-red crest. Males have a red stripe on the cheek. In flight, the bird reveals extensive white underwings and small white crescents on the upper side, at the bases of the primaries.

These giants drill huge distinctive rectangular-shaped holes in rotten wood to get at carpenter ants and other insects and can gouge out a hole in a dead tree in no time. They are loud birds with whinnying calls. They also drum on dead trees in a deep, slow, rolling pattern, and even the heavy chopping sound of foraging carries well from quite a distance.

I got most of that information from the internet, which also says they are found throughout this area and throughout the eastern states, but I’ve only seen one around the feeders in our yard once or twice before. We had one hanging around the back yard last summer and although we never actually saw that one, we knew he was here because we could sure hear him every time he arrived to work on a dead tree near the riverbank. He was a real lumberjack and left a pile of sawdust and wood chips that was three inches deep and three feet around under a hole he was excavating in the tree trunk.

Anyway February may just go by pretty fast this year. The first week of the month is already over, and believe it or not, it went by before we realized it.

Of course it helps to have granddaughter Sammi here from California for a week-long visit. I can’t imagine anyone coming here to visit Michigan in February, especially from sunny, warm California, but she did it and I’m certainly not going to complain about it!

I may hide in her luggage when she leaves though.