Monday, October 19, 2009

A Foretaste of Winter

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), a "snow bird"

The Mid-Atlantic suffered through two Nor'easters this last weekend, starting on Thursday, October 15 and ending yesterday afternoon (Sunday, October 18). (For those who don't live along the Atlantic Coast, a Nor'easter is a storm that travels northward from the Carolinas up to New England. The winds circulate counterclockwise around the low pressure center that's hugging the coast [hence, nor'east winds], usually accompanied by rain [or snow] and flooding tides.) These storms made it unseasonably cold (mid-40s vs. typical mid-60s), damp and miserable. Bone-chilling weather.

On Friday evening, during a lull in the storm, I went to the compost pile to dump some of my kitchen waste. En route, I thought that I heard a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) singing, but it only came once and I wasn't positive. Then, on Saturday morning, I threw millet under my bird feeder and attracted two Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis)--sure harbingers of winter. I thought that the sparrows and the juncos were early, but maybe not. The juncos were not to be seen Sunday or this morning, so perhaps they were the avant garde, and had moved further south.

Here's an image of a beautiful old red oak (Quercus rubra) stump quickly disappearing but playing host to lots of great fungi in the process. Earlier in the year, it sported slime mold colonies.


Jain said...

I love Juncos most of all, they really say "Winter!" to me. I can't wait to see the first one of the season.

Lovely stump with handsome fungi, and I like the aster lace around it!

Scott said...

Thanks for the comment, Jain. The rotting red oak stump also provides a home for a chipmunk that has burrowed under the roots. It jumps up on the stump frequently for a better vantage point.

In addition to the juncos and White-throated Sparrow that I saw/heard last weekend, birders in the area have spotted Red-breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins...already!