The “keeper snow” came early this year. In late November, we walked in lightweight clothing and running shoes. Two days later a storm blew in ahead of a Canadian cold front and dropped eight inches of new snow. We’ve entered the stark season. Green is a memory buried under an ice-cold blanket. Gone from our yard are the bumblebees, painted lady butterflies and other pollinators. I’ve put the garden to bed for the winter.
Just ahead of the storm, a mixed flock of robins, dark-eyed juncos, black-capped chickadees and small woodpeckers—both downy and hairy—descended into our back yard. Robins tossed aside leaves to uncover stray insects, seeds and fruit. Juncos sought seeds on the garden wall. Chickadees and woodpeckers hunted for insect larvae and other delights in the bark of our old apple tree.
This afternoon at dusk, a female northern cardinal, softly colored and alone, delicately plucked crabapples one-by-one in our front yard. She was lucky to find any because the portly gray squirrels have stripped most of the tree bare. I am grateful for these winged winter residents that bring life to our garden on even the coldest winter days.