Tag Archives: winter

Eat or be Eaten

A few days ago when the snow came down hard and heavy, I felt sorry for the birds, as I always do when the weather makes their lives hard to bear. But I had forgotten that not only do some birds — the weak, the injured, and the unlucky — have a hard enough time finding food, but they have to beware of becoming food for other birds.

The forested patches near our house are home to many bald eagles. Because the ocean is nearby, it is ideal for them, especially now as herring time draws near.  But until the herring fishery begins, the eagles take advantage of the suffering of other bird species. They are especially fond of snatching seabirds from the water or the beaches.

Out in my backyard, under one of the firs that the eagles love to use as their dining room, I found, discarded, a wing that had been stripped of all meat. My guess is that it was from a loon, as these seem to be one of the eagle’s favourites. I have found several loon carcasses under the dining tree in the past. For the photo, I have put a pop can beside the wing to show the relative size.

In the animal world it still goes that you must “Eat or be eaten.”

A Parting Shot

I didn’t learn about the possible connection between “a parting shot” and “a Parthian shot” until just a few years ago. It seems that the Parthians who lived in a region in the northeast of what is now Iran, had a sneaky technique that worked very successfully for them in battle. They might be outnumbered four to one, but as long as they had a constant supply of arrows (which they always brought along to the battles), they could put their horsemanship and archery skills to good use.

Their tactic was to fake a retreat, understandable when they were outnumbered, and as the enemy fell out of their organized formation and pursued them, the Parthians turned to shoot at them with their large supply of arrows, and ended up winning many a battle this way.

This one (and many more) last shot as they (supposedly) fled, came to be their trademark “Parthian Shot,” and some believe that our modern expression “parting shot” derives its origin in this Parthian tactic.

Well, winter has taken a page from the Parthian history books and given us a Parthian shot this morning. After several warmish, springlike days, we woke up to this early morning scene.

Emma jumped up to her usual seat on the back of the couch to watch her favourite nature show of passing rabbits and eagles, and was dumbfounded. I heard her say, “What the …?”

The valley was socked in with a snow cloud.

But when the sun rose, a promising pink glow said, “Don’t worry, I’ll melt the snow off that willow in the front right of your picture. The pussywillows will still be there, unharmed.”


The birds are so happy that I refilled the feeders yesterday before it snowed.


Hang in there. Spring will come one day. I’m not going to be taken in by winter’s Parthian shot and go out there to shovel snow that will melt by tomorrow.

Two More Months?

January is a long month. Thirty-one days of cold, dreary weather. March is still two months away. I look out on my garden. It looks so neglected that I find it hard to believe I harvested carrots from it just yesterday. Yes, in January! They were small carrots, and oh, so sweet! But that’s it for now until the soil warms up.

I hope the snow stays up in the hills. Misty clouds obscure the glacier on the opposite side of the bay.

I thought I could tough it out and spring would be here soon, but I caved. I went shopping for some colour to brighten up these last days of winter. Every time I look at my new orchids, I feel better, knowing that spring will come soon.


Two more months until it’s spring?

Two more months till robins sing?

How am I to wait that long?

Hope the weatherman is wrong,

Talking about rain and snow.

I just wish that it would go.

Time for sunny days to be.

Two more months? You orchid-ing me!



More Herons

Heavy gray winter sky, darker charcoal sea underneath – any boats on the waters of Vancouver Island would have to wonder if the  sky was going to press down and suffocate them. I’d be racing for the sunny gap at the south end of the channel. Is that Mexico I see there? Or at least California? No such luck.002

A trip to Mexico or California is out for now. Since I have nowhere to run to, I’ll just take a drive in the landward direction, down towards town and right through to the other side. There, at the base of the hills, are some farms where I might find something interesting. As it turns out, huge flocks of ducks flew out of the fields just as I arrived and there was hardly a living thing left except for a few swans.


But then on my way home, I saw a fine fellow in the grass. What’s he doing in a field of grasses? Look closely. See the water on the left of the photo? Where there’s water, there might be a frog or some other small creature that will make a fine lunch for our blue heron.


Isn’t he a handsome fellow?

Is it Spring Yet?


The sun was out today and it almost seemed as if spring might come someday. The yard was filled with birds I hadn’t seen for a long while. Where had they come from so suddenly? They weren’t here yesterday. It’s still cold up north. Could it be a mistake?


And yet these robins were here in droves, pecking at any underground bugs that might be surfacing in the sun-warmed grass. Those that couldn’t find enough bugs flew to the holly trees for their berries. Can you find six robins in this photo? It’s only a small sample patch of the whole yard.

It was glorious to feel the “warmish” rays of the winter sun, and to hear the birds sing as if it really were spring. I only hope they aren’t in for an ugly surprise. It has happened before that these happy birds arrive too soon and are overtaken by a sudden dip in temperature and then a snowfall – deadly because it covers all the food sources. One year, the early robins lay dead on the roads, in people’s yards, and in the snowbanks. The cotoneaster shrubs, like the holly and mountain ash, were stripped of their icy red berries – all in vain. The birds needed more than frozen berries to keep them alive.

I hope that this time, the birds are right to arrive early and the weather is going to  warm up gradually. Robins are early nesters; as I remember it, I’ve seen freshly hatched robins’ eggs near the end of March.

Now I have a challenge for you. Can you identify three kinds of birds in the photo below? You may have to click on it and enlarge it a bit, but let’s see if you know your birds. They’re nothing exotic, even though today they seemed to be something very special. After all, it’s only early January.


Leave a comment with your thoughts and guesses. I always like to hear from you. Also, please visit my webpage when you have a minute. http://anneli-purchase.com

I’m aware that many parts of Canada and the States are under a layer of snow as I write this. I don’t mean to rub your nose in our relatively good weather, but rather I want to show you that spring is just around the corner … just beyond that last snowbank.