As many of my readers know, whenever it is snowy outside I find it hard to resist venturing out into the great outdoors to explore and photograph every inch of the great unknown (or in this case, the 'great known'). Today was no exception. I was up early and over to my best pal's house by 8:30 AM. We were supposed to be attending an outdoorsy event but we decided not to go after all because of road conditions. The 1-3 inches of snow that had been forecast for the night before ended up being late and didn't begin until around 7:45 AM. The heavy snowfall, combined with 25 mph. winds, made for bad road travel and a very chilly day. When I left my house at 8:15, the road hadn't even been plowed our salted yet (I live on a small country road), and there was half a foot of snow on the bridge going over the creek. There had only been one vehicle before me, as I could tell by the tracks. When I arrived at my friend's house, his 1/4 mile long lane was practically snowed shut in multiple places, with drifts over 1 1/2 feet deep covering half of the drive in places. Luckily, they were occupying only half of the driveway, and my blazer is 4-wheel drive. That said, you can guess the nasty weather we had here in southern Ohio (there was a level 2 snow emergency issued).
After finding out that the event had been cacelled, we contemplated what to do. We briefly discussed going cross-country skiing, but I decided to return home before I was completely snowed in and stuck there. We will hopefully meet soon to do that in more favorable conditions (and by that I mean less windy). Ironically, the snow stopped about 15 minutes after I got home, or 30 minutes after I left. The wind continued throughout the entire day, however. I arrived home slightly (okay, more than slightly) bummed. Now instead of having a fun day with my friends outside doing stuff, I was stuck home because of nasty weather and bad road conditions. As I sat and watched the snow fall (or stop falling, as it turned out), I decided to cheer myself up by getting my photography blind and heading to the woods. I quickly gathered a jug of water and my makeshift bird-bath saucer (which is inside for the winter as I have no means of keeping it thawed and am too cheap to by a heater) and threw on my overalls and coat complete with face mask and gloves. I figured the birds would appreciate some water to go with the corn which was already out (but only one bird made use of the water by getting a drink the entire time). My spirit lifted as I neared my destination at the edge of the woods and heard (and saw) that the visitors that awaited included blue jays, northern cardinals, white-crowned sparrows, and dark-eyed juncos, among others.
I quickly placed and filled the saucer with water, popped up my blind, and settled in for a long wait-- and later-- some seriously intense bird photography [which turned out to be ordinary, un-intense (is that a word???) photography]. Though the blue jays never gave me half a chance to get a photo of them, I did end up getting a few good photos of some neat birds. I also saw a species which I am unable to identify, though my speculation is that it is a swamp sparrow. I had a swamp sparrow last year, but it didn't look like this bird (but it was similar). I have only seen a swamp sparrow twice, both of which were last year, so I haven't much experience identifying them. I ended up photographing eight different species: dark-eyed juncos, a northern cardinal, white-crowned sparrows, white-throated sparrows, American tree sparrows, a song sparrow and one northern mockingbird (and mystery bird). I didn't see the mockingbird until I came out of my blind, but I did manage to get a decent photgraph of it sitting in a briar bush adorned with bright-red berries. I stumbled upon the mockingbird because I heard a loud, raspy call that I didn't recognize (it was mocking, of course. In this case it turned out to be mocking a squirrel). Following my ears, I saw a large gray bird perched about 12 feet off of the ground, mostly hidden by branches. I zoomed in for a photograph, and was excited to see what looked like a shrike species: Light gray, a white mark on the wings, a black bill, and some black markings. My excitement was short lived, however, as the mockingbird flew past me and landed in the aforementioned briar bush, thus revealing it's true identity. I was happy all the same, though, because I love mockingbirds dearly and this summer last they somehow passed by my property as nesting territory. And thus concludes my day of birdwatching adventures. Some of my photos follow.
Mystery bird... any ideas???