Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter's Subtleties

Imagine: you're immersed in the early-winter splendor of the Chiricahua Mountains.

 Dawn light on the Chiricahua Mountains (Photos by Narca)

The air is brisk and glorious, and, hiking up South Fork, you settle into the depths and subtleties of the season...

into the drifts of sycamore leaves...

Light gleams from the seedheads of Cane Beardstem...

and native thistles...

and Deer Grass.

Streamside willows still hold a few leaves,

and the sycamore's bark takes on a subtle hue of green from chloroplasts.

The riot of nesting and migrating birds has passed, and now you find winter's companions:

Acorn Woodpeckers are busy among the pines and oaks,

Gambel's Quail enliven the mountains' feet,

and Spotted Towhees scratch in the underbrush.

In fact, Spotted Towhees are having a banner winter in the Chiricahuas. Regrowth from the big fire of 2011 must have reached a stage that offers towhees plenty of nesting cover, for we've never before seen them this numerous in winter.

Adult male Scott's Oriole

And... what is a Scott's Oriole doing, still coming daily to our hummingbird feeders?? He lasted through the November snowstorm and shows every sign of being a snowbird in reverse. There's nothing subtle about this bird's summer yellows!

Okay, who has guessed? New camera!