Living in Your Own Private Cryosphere

Tubular

Albedo is the reflectivity of the earth’s surface. Ice, white and bright, has a high albedo, reflecting back the sun on itself, whereas water draws the solar radiation deep into its hues. Water is always in flux, mutable — liquid, vaporous, frozen — evaporating, condensing and expanding. This fluidity of form and purpose fuels life […]

On Little Cat Feet in Seattle

Tacoma Ferry in Fog

Carl Sandburg’s metaphor of fog creeping in “on little cat feet” over the harbor and sky is 21 words of descriptive perfection. But, it wasn’t this gentle, pitter-patter idea of fog that formed me. It was a more treacherous fog, the fog of the mire, the one shrouding fantastical and coal-black specters: The cloud was […]

Waxwing Solo

Waxwing 385

I marked my winters in California by the return of the Cedar Waxwings. A few years ago this is how I would describe my seasonal transition: It starts with a whistle, but a whistle so faint it’s a whisper across the leaves. And then the sound of raindrops, but it’s not rain. It’s the patter […]

A Makeshift Hummingbird Feeder Heater

Anna's Hummingbird on Feeder

Heating hummingbird feeders was a new thing for me after moving to Seattle. Here, Anna’s Hummingbirds stay through the winter, and although the cold months are relatively temperate, there are enough freezing mornings when nectar turns into slush or ice. My first go-round with enabling the local hummingbirds came our first winter with Mr. Hummingway. […]

It’s the Time of the Season … for Bird Noir

Crow on fence in black and white

Without even a wisp of autumn air, Seattle dipped from summer to storm, from a prolonged swelter to a premature December gray, leaving me damp and unrequited. In eighty days without droplets and dew, the Emerald city turned topaz and so dry that even the pigeons, normally preening under nimbostratus showers, looked haggard for the […]

No Frozen Hummingbirds, Please

Heated Hummingbird Feeder

In the winter of 2011, my hummingbird nectar froze into a giant lifesaver of an ice cube. I’m a Californian which means I’m used to nectar that ferments into birdie moonshine after a few days in the sun. But last year we migrated north to Seattle … at the same time Anna’s Hummingbirds decide not […]

A Bird Called Hummingway

Male Anna's Hummingbird

He was christened Mr. Hummingway by a dear friend who likes birds but is ambivalent about interaction with birds. She had formative experiences that made her view birds as flapping missiles who get tangled in your hair, dive bomb you, or suddenly ditch into the open window of your moving car on a freeway. Those […]

Ice Ducks

Male Mallard walking on ice

Here’s my segue from Winter Water . . . to the semi-graceful form of winter ducks. The snow is gone, but I still froze my fingers into Rocket Pops, snapping pics of these ducks navigating their own version of tundra. Unlike me, the ducks kept their digits warm, thanks to the ingenious countercurrent circulation system […]

The Waxwings Are Back

Cedar Waxwing in pyracantha tree

I don’t know exactly how long they’ve been back, the Cedar Waxwings. Serious birders** know from the hour. I only know by the near-silent whistles that suddenly populate our trees. And I know because we got our first injured Cedar Waxwings at the hospital in the past two weeks — immobilized by window strikes. Today, […]