Stranded At Mr. Neil's

Well, our plans got a little derailed today as this puffed up blue jay in the snow hints at.

We got some unexpected snow. Some of the snow was expected, but where exactly it fell and how much was not. We knew some snow was coming but there wasn't supposed be too much falling where we live. We went out to Mr. Neil's to take some photos (I was hoping to see some common redpolls, a few have been reported around the Twin Cities, so I figured it was a matter of time before some would show up at Mr. Neil's.) and spread some Christmas cheer...then the wind picked up and dusty snow fell and then I received an email note from the City of Minneapolis that a Snow Emergency has been declared so we have decided to stay at Mr. Neil's and avoid the treacherous roads. It's not so bad being here, apart from Mr. Neil trying to get Non Birding Bill and me to drink some kind of liquid fungus he's been growing. But on the upside, when my toes get frozen, I can use the sauna.

The wind has been particularly nasty. It's already about 10 degrees, but the wind makes it feel well below zero. Above, this red-bellied woodpecker was trying to position himself in the least windy area around the suet log. I went out to artfully arrange some bittersweet berries and pine boughs. In part to create an artistic back drop for photos, but to also help create a wind break for the birds while they feed.

The feeding stations were not as active as usual. No squirrels showed up, I'm sure they were hunkered for the day, sleeping in their nests. The birds, like the tufted titmouse in the above photo stayed hunkered only moved if hunger absolutely drove them down.

Alas, the wind was so bitter, that not even an extra layer of clothing or my hand warmers could keep me comfortable. The hand warmers have been helpful in the past with keeping my rechargeable batteries going in my camera. But today, they camera kept freezing up. I decided to give up the ghost since all my batteries were failing, my fingers were going numb, and no matter what direction I was standing in--snow insisted on pelting my cheeks.

When I got into the house, I looked out the kitchen window and lo and behold, one common redpoll was among the goldfinches. The feeder is so close to the window that I had tough time getting it in focus. I got as far back as I could and at this point the scope started fogging up after having been in the cold for so long. I managed one photo and then finally my batteries went kaput for good and I hit the sauna.