Happy New Year! We just returned from spending the holiday at the cabin, as we have for many years now. We usually make the trip to the cabin at least once a month in the Winter to check on the place and shovel the snow off the roof. All thou we have had mild Winters the past few years this year is starting out to be a more typical North Country season. River Rd from the campground to the cabin is not plowed in the Winter but it is a groomed snowmobile trail and often we are able to drive up. We park at the top of Toms driveway, the groomer turns there and makes a good sized cleared area to park. Still, the walk into the cabin can seem twice as long when you're trudging thru the deep snow. The path we usually take thru the pine grove is now an open field and the snow was up to our knees! Didn’t realize how much the trees would hold the snow and prevent it from getting as deep in the grove.
We haul in all our water, food and other supplies by sled. But poor Shilo couldn’t walk in the deep snow at all. She took two steps and was up to her neck in snow! John had to shovel a path for her. (notice I didn’t say he was concerned about shoveling a path for me LOL) A walk that would usually take mere minutes took nearly an hour. The weather was nice when we first arrived but soon clouded up and began to snow. The temps were in the teens and the wind was howling. Right about now most of you are saying “What are you crazy? No thank you not the way I want to spend a holiday weekend.” But the new fishing season opens the first day of the new year and John just had to be on the open river below Murphy Dam to catch his first fish of 2017!
All thou he put in hours of fishing, trudging thru the snow just to get to the river and standing in the freezing cold water (even in insulated waders don’t tell me it isn’t cold in that water!) he got skunked. No fish! He blamed the poor weather conditions, said it was too windy, he had trouble casting his fly. Thou he did get a couple of bites he never hooked a fish. Zero.
I spent my time birding as usual. But I didn’t have any better luck than John did. I followed the snowmobile trail thru the woods searching for birds, but the wind kept blowing the snow off the trees and causing near white-out conditions. I just couldn’t see anything, I was so bundled up only my eyeglasses were exposed and the blowing snow kept getting them wet. I tried sitting in my makeshift bird blind bundled up in an old sleeping bag to watch for birds in the yard but still nothing. Zero.
I checked my birding records from previous years and usually over New Years weekend I would see flocks of Pine Siskins and Dark-eyed Juncos. I hang a large seed block and usually would have Red-breasted Nuthatch and Downy Woodpeckers visit. And usually, I can stand in the yard with seed in my hands and have the Chickadees land on my hand to eat. But this year nothing, nada, zero! Not a single bird anywhere, no chirping in the trees. No wildlife at all. I checked my records, usually I would see the Otter playing on the ice, zero. There usually is a small herd of deer that pass thru the yard, this year zero Deer, other than the dead one by the boat launch (poor thing). There were no tracks in the snow of Rabbit, Fox, Coyote or Squirrels, nothing but untouched snow. Zero.
I find the lack of birds and wildlife very concerning. You have to wonder why do they know something we don’t? Have they all traveled further South because they know this Winter is going to be harsher than usual? Is it because the habitat has changed in the yard since the tornado? Skimmers Place is no longer a cabin in the woods, it's now a cabin in a field. All the pine trees are gone, which means all those pine cones and pine seeds are no longer there for the birds and squirrels. The cover the low branches of the pines offered for the Deer are now gone. Or is this a more ominous sign of a Silent Spring? ( a book by pioneering conservationist Rachel Carson about the negative effects of man on nature.) What I do know is that I have never spent three days at the cabin and seen nothing! Zero birds or wildlife! ZERO!
Happy Birding, Jane