Several years ago I established an annual practice of “gifting” myself with a roving ramble of this place that I love—the Upper Delaware River region—on my birthday, which transpired recently.
On cold winter days, we usually don’t think on ice or frost except when we have to scrape it off the windshield of our vehicles, or salt the walkway so we don’t slip and fall. Occasionally, especially when it is very humid or foggy and below freezing, or we are right next to a stream or river, we can see a more interesting frost.
Somehow, Squirrel Appreciation Day sneaked past me on January 21st without the proper praise the occasion warrants. So belatedly, I celebrate the clever, cute and captivating rodents that rob many a feathered friend of its food sources at backyard feeders and suet blocks, while entertaining us with their squirrely antics.
We have passed the halfway point of winter, and the busy holiday season is behind us. This is what some people describe as the winter doldrums, and perhaps a few cases of “cabin fever” are setting in. For some of us, spring cannot come soon enough.
With the exception of the feathered friends who ply our bird feeders (and the rascal squirrels that rob their share), it’s easy to believe that most other creatures have vanished into thin air at this time of year. Animals we often encounter in warmer months seem to be absent as we hike or drive in the Upper Delaware River region.
Sometime in the early 1970s, I rented the Cessna Skyhawk from our aero club near where I was stationed in Germany. Although it was a little breezy, the weather forecast was good for that Saturday afternoon. I took my camera along, which was a Minolta 35mm film SLR at the time; I was hoping to get some aerial photos of some nearby landmarks.
“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again,” wrote 19th-century American poet, philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
At the writing of this column, the temperature is in the low 20s and the wind is blowing at 20 mph with higher gusts. A winter storm is forecast for the upcoming weekend, with several inches of snow possible before it turns to rain. It is certainly a good time to be indoors writing a River Talk column.
With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to think about the broad horizon of possibilities for 2017. One worthy goal to consider is committing to a deeper relationship with the abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Upper Delaware River region.
As some us are taking those first trips to the mall for gift buying, or digging out the Christmas tree lights from the attic, others are checking binoculars, spotting scopes and other birding equipment in preparation for the 117th Audubon Christmas Bird Count.