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The year is coming to a close now and outdoor tasks are winding down as cooler weather moves in. The summer birds have gone to their winter homes and the chickadees, juncos, woodpeckers, and cardinals dominate the bird feeders. I delight in seeing these birds as much as their summer counterparts. My morning walks bring different experiences in the world that has changed its colors now.As the leaves fell and the chill came many creatures were busier than ever preparing for the long winter months.

Ground squirrels and tree squirrels were seen gathering food for storage. With this activity came the presence of owls once again. It has been an amazing year watching and hearing owls here. They have been especially close to the house at night and very vocal. Two Great-Horned Owls are regulars but there has been a Barred Owl from time to time as well. There is good hunting here as the rabbit population has swelled in recent years. I am grateful to these owls for bringing the rabbits under control and my gardens have survived much better this year for it.Recent heavy rains this fall brought the creek levels up again and fish populations were also high. Again nature has its ways of checks and balances. To my delight otters returned again to feast on the abundance. I happened to surprise an adult feeding on the banks of the creek. This time I got a real good look at it. It was a fairly large individual with brown fur tipped with gray and sporting a blocky head and long strong body and tail. A few days later I spotted two individuals swimming in the deep pools and splashing and making quite a bit of noise. After the early heavy snowfalls, I observed their rather strange footprints in the snow. Their front paws look webbed and they have a large back footprint kind of bear-like. Their visits have been a thrill for me to observe.

This time of year brings the drama of the rut for white-tail deer. It seems they lose their shyness and can be seen around here all times of the day. The other day I observed a large buck in hot pursuit of a doe in the middle of the day. Both were far from cover and ended up on the roadway. A magnificent sight to be sure but I was glad I wasn't driving.

As I reflect on this year that is now coming to a close, I feel privileged to be able to observe this natural world so close around me. Now with a beautiful coating of snow, its wonders seem even more extraordinary than ever.My goal of being a good steward of the land has taken on a new and important meaning and now I am seeing the fruits of the hard work done throughout the year bring abundant rewards.

Rose Moore- Master Naturalist

Journal Entry – December 2018