Allan Bell’s Birch Bark Nature Notes revisited
Dec. 21, first day of winter, according to the calendar. I think it came about two weeks ago (the first time I got stuck in the snow with the little red wagon.
I think that doubt about the pecking order of pine siskins and goldfinches has been resolved. The siskins, are here by the dozens to use the thistle feeder. No goldfinches have been seen for a couple of weeks. Did the siskins evict them? Purple finches don’t take a back seat, though, they muscle their way right in.
Why should the birds have to wait until after Christmas for their Christmas tree? I couldn’t answer that one either so I put up a scrawny spruce for them, decorated not with lights and ornaments, but with goodies.
Don Follen, the researcher who is looking for information on the great gray owl, writes that a great gray was shot just east of Tomahawk in September, 1951. The mounted specimen is owned by a friend of his. He is interested in any sightings of this bird or even mounted birds. He states they are a shy, secretive bird, wisely staying out of sight of people. They have found many people cannot be trusted. Why? Why do we harm something that we do not understand and is of no danger to us? PLEASE – leave them alone.
Wrapping up 1983. During a pouring rain late in November, with the wind howling, a chickadee was clinging to the suet sack, swinging back and forth, seemingly oblivious to the elements…Dec. 1 A cold morning. Five bluejays were sitting in the bare apple tree with their feathers all fluffed up. They looked almost twice as big as they usually do. Birds have special muscles, enabling them to fluff up their feathers, creating dead air spaces as insulation to keep them warm. They can also flatten their feathers in summer to aid in cooling. Watch the chickadees do this, too.
Dec. 19, full moon…On the morning of Dec. 23 (before daylight) Venus, Saturn and Mars are all visible in the southeastern sky. Saturn is tilted with its rings at 20 degrees, the best viewing for skywatchers since 1976. Even 7x binoculars will show Saturn as an elongated object.
Wausau West High School has a planetarium and usually puts on a Christmas star show. As you sit in the darkened room, the sky becomes just exactly the way it looked almost 2,000 years ago, each star and planet in its proper position. A narrator explains it all and gives his opinion of what star or planet it was that the wise men saw and followed. Why don’t you go and be awed by the majesty of the night sky?
Happy Holidays from this old buzzard!
Late nature writer Allan Bell wrote this Birch Bark Nature Notes column for the Tomahawk Leader as the year of 1983 came to an end and a new year was issued in. In revisiting some of his masterful insight into our natural world, we are reminded to look up, look around and appreciate all the that abounds this holiday season.