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Chill life

Where once were green leaves

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and flowers

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will someday be again

In tooth and claw

 

גם זה יעבור

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No thing lives forever. A joy and tragedy of human existence is that most of us will outlive most other life-forms we encounter, from bacteria to birches to bison. So even under the most placid of circumstances, we witness death—often, and too often of things we treasure.

In these parts, family and pets excepted, some of the most treasured creatures are birds. And of these, most are short-lived at best: according to our time-scale, if not their own. They may meet their ends huddled high in a frosted tree-hollow, on the ground in the jaws of a fox or claws of a cat, or blasted in mid-flight by a stooping hawk. Or in many other ways.

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Beyond the feral cats and poisoned mice we loose, not to mention the effects of habitat loss and outdoor chemical over-use, a leading human-sponsored cause of bird destruction is our desire to enjoy the beauty, peace and dynamism of nature without having to step out into it: in blizzard of snow or mosquitoes, under fire from rain or hail or in twilight gloom. The problem is that bird cognition does not include cues to distinguish glazed window from cave, and the resulting collision is very often fatal, as for the late red-bellied woodpecker above, or this unfortunate bluebird:

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Especially so in cooler weather, when a stunned finch can freeze before reviving:

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Though rarer, attacks by birds on their own reflections can occasionally have similar consequences for both. And sometimes—as during the recent unpleasantness, when gale-force winds and heavy snowfall make larders inaccessible in sub-zero chill—it is the black horse that stalks prey like the wren posed above and (more revealingly) here:

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And the mortal remains? Day or night, they rarely persist for more than a few hours. Fox, skunk, coyote, raccoon and opossum all favor dead birds, showing varying degrees of nicety in removing feathers. From above, owls and eagles accept these gifts. And while they may not see each sparrow fall, our high-hovering vulture can, at least on warm days, smell one from afar, and follow the carrion-reek upwind for a mile or more. As here, to a squirrel that apparently aspired to a sky burial:

DSCN8923fpAssessed,

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Gruesome, but hardly egregious. More disturbing is when animals of the “Bambi” genre display carnivory, entirely normal for them, but somehow jarring to human sensibilities. Organic kitchen and table waste attracts all that hunger, without (at least when cooked and disjointed to anonymity) regard for source. Composted remains of fricasseed Gallus gallus domesticus have been seen hereabouts carried forth, to be eaten entire or more thoroughly gleaned, by not only the above-named mammals but also deer, squirrel and chipmunk. And by clade-cousins Poecile atricapillus

S0083480fpPasserella iliaca,

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So do do all things pass away, in this case to be reincarnated life-on-life. Sad? Perhaps, but ineluctable and entirely natural. And like all things natural, in its own way graceful and even elegant.

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In the midst of life

Another peaceful day on the gelid pond. But what is this new island? Not a muskrat lodge, despite the resemblance from afar,

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but the earthly remains of a white-tailed deer felled by coyote, illness, or just a bad fall on the ice.

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Exposed ribs and pink-tinted snow are the signs of hungry scavengers

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aerial and diurnal,

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while paw-prints of several sizes reveal the more secretive visits of heavier diners

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domesticated

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and wild;

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singly

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and in larger groups:

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Please see more images and video here.

Frost bites

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