Northampton Press

Monday, December 9, 2019
PRESS PHOTO BY BUD COLE Bud and Bev Cole's dog, Blue, in the snow. PRESS PHOTO BY BUD COLE Bud and Bev Cole's dog, Blue, in the snow.

Bud's View: Looking Back at 2013: Punxsutawney Phil got snowed in

Wednesday, January 1, 2014 by BUD COLE Special to The Press in Focus

First of two parts

It can't be.

But it is.

And I know I say this every year and it certainly seems to be true, but yet I know it's impossible.

Does each year pass more quickly than the previous one?

How could I possibly be writing my 15th annual "Bud's View: Looking Back" column? Didn't I just write about looking back at 2012 a few months ago?

Do you remember how most everyone was worrying about the arrival of the New Millennium and what might happen to our computers and possibly our bank accounts and investments?

Is it possible that it was 14 years ago when I quietly crept away from our family New Year's Eve gathering to turn off the main circuit breaker just as the ball touched down at Times Square?

And here I am writing about 2013. I spent Dec. 30, 2012, to Jan. 3, 2013, in St. Luke's University Hospital with what was determined to be a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack, or "mini-stroke"), so I don't have much to report about that period of time.

That's what a TIA will do to you. Dull your memory. That's why I keep a journal.

So here we go.

We had no precipitation in 2013 until Jan. 11 when 0.43 inches of rain fell on the Lehigh Valley. The lows remained below freezing until Jan. 12, followed by a high of 55 degrees Jan. 14.

I had a feeling that the feeding frenzy at our bird feeders Jan. 14 would lead to inclement weather. Excited bird behavior and feeding is often a clue that the weather is about to change.

And what do you know? A winter storm, the first of the year, dropped a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain totaling 0.89 inches Jan. 14 - 16. The birds were more accurate than the Weather Channel.

Mid-January brought a red-breasted nuthatch, not very common in the Lehigh Valley, to our feeders for about one month. A pileated male woodpecker hacked away like a jackhammer on a nearby red maple tree, sending wood chips flying up to three feet from the tree.

January's coldest day was 6 degrees Jan. 27. The warmest was 66 degrees Jan. 30. That is a 60-degree change over a four-day period. The extremes in temperatures produced heavy winds, pruning branches and uprooting some trees. The month ended with 1.63 inches of rain Jan. 31.

Feb. 1 was a soggy day. On day two, the Gobbler's Knob weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, did not see his shadow, thus predicting an early spring.

Phil was way off. A snowfall of 4.1 inches hit the Lehigh Valley Feb. 8 and the winter weather kept coming.

My wife, Bev, and I participated in the annual "Great Backyard Bird Count," Feb. 15 - 18. Birds flying over our property included two turkey vultures, one red-tailed hawk, 42 Canada geese and several hundred snow geese in quantities too numerous to make an accurate count.

Our final count of the highest number of one species seen at one time included: 21 dark-eyed juncos, eight starlings, seven common crows, seven tufted titmice, six bluebirds, six mourning doves, four black-capped chickadees, three common redpolls, three downy woodpeckers, two turkey vultures, two northern cardinals, two white-breasted nuthatches, one red-breasted nuthatch, one red-tailed hawk, one Coopers hawk, one goldfinch, one brown creeper and one pileated woodpecker.

But there was not a single recording of a partridge in a pear tree during the four-day period.

The low temperature was 6 degrees Feb. 10. The high was 52 degrees Feb. 15.

Bluebirds continued visiting the suet feeders, giving us hope that we might have nesting bluebirds in spring. The pileated woodpecker made several return trips to the red maple.

Half of February's days had at least a trace of precipitation, ending in 6.06 inches for the month.

A wet snowfall March 18 triggered a frantic bird feeding phenomenon, unlike any I've ever witnessed before. At least 50 juncos, two dozen robins, numerous mourning doves, three bright red males and two female cardinals joined the many other common winter songbirds feeding on the ground as well as on the seed and suet feeders.

Our English springer spaniel, Blue, had a ball playing in the snow. We planted our onion sets, lettuce and radishes at the end of the month when the ground thawed.

April showers encouraged a good spring vegetable crop. We enjoyed great salads of mixed lettuce varieties, scallions and radishes from the garden and fresh wild violet flowers and dandelion from the yard. If you like salads, there's nothing much better than fresh ingredients harvested straight from the garden.

Eastern towhees, bluebirds, orioles, redstarts, warblers, gold finches and many additional neotropical birds (colorful songbirds that winter in Central and South America) filled the yard with their colors and their songs during May and June.

The birds' bright colors stood out against the varied green hues of new plants. Warmer weather lured four rose-breasted grosbeaks and two male indigo buntings to the feeders.

Our diligence in creating an inviting backyard wildlife habitat was rewarded when a pair of bluebirds moved into one of our five bluebird nesting boxes. Their nesting activity was late, so we assume they had already raised a first brood in another part of the neighborhood.

That's the way I see it!

Next: "Looking Back, Part 2"

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