Over the past few days, I have been visiting sites for the first time since before the rain came and have discovered all the areas where water is pooling. What was once a dried up patchwork of bunch grass and soil is now a wetland teeming with frogs, ducks, and geese. I took some time to bird watch spotting Northern shovelers, gadwalls, mallards, great egrets, great blue heron, red-shouldered hawk, Northern harrier, and a white-tailed kite! White-tailed kites are more commonly sighted this time of year because they are less dispersed, roosting communally during the winter. Sometime their roosts can have over a hundred individuals. Northern Harriers, with their white rumps, are one of my favorite raptors to watch as they hunt low to the ground, gliding just above the tips of the grass. I also get a kick out of the great blue heron, standing perfectly still, trying to decide whether or not I can see him. And when he finally takes off, he looks disgruntled for having been bothered. For whatever reason, I personify them as being old grumpy men with something to prove. As they fly off, I imagine them saying, “I still got wings”.
It has been an enjoyable, socked in Willamette Valley Winter so far. I am fortunate I get to roam around some of the few oak woodland habitats that still exist. Everything feels so soft this time of year, the edges blurred by the fog, the moss on the trees, the soggy ground. I wonder how I would feel differently if I didn’t have a heated shelter to return to, stocked with canned goods and frozen berries. I am glad I don’t have to dig for my stashed nuts when I get hungry. Those wild animals sure make me feel soft too.