It’s easy to think that winter and the cold early days of spring as quiet times for nature. Birdsongs are muted. Few insects buzz about. Mammals, we imagine, are tucked away in their dens. Plants are sleeping, bare of flowers and leaves. At first glance, there’s not much to see.
But winter allows a deeper look at nature, providing a view into places usually hidden among all those leaves. You can see farther into the woods, more of the stream bank is visible, and there’s a better chance of seeing wildlife.
The same goes in your neighborhood. The nests, hidey-holes, dinner spots and perches of your local wild neighbors are in view, ready for you to look.
Drey is the way-too-cool word for squirrel nest. Look into most any tree, and you will find a messy ball of leaves. The leaves look like they got stuck there, but they were gathered up and placed by a local squirrel. Some trees have five or more dreys scattered among big and small branches. Once you spot a drey, you’ll see them everywhere. (Photo: John Hayes, CC)
Another home that looks likes the wind blew it together. Bushtits run in squeaky, drab packs, feeding and living together in squabbling extended families. Their nests are blobs of moss and twigs drooping from branches. Look closely and you’ll see the mousy little birds scurrying about their communal home, dangling and darting like acrobats.
If you see a grid of small circles punched out of a tree trunk, you’ve seen the work of a sapsucker. In greater Portland it's most likely a red-breasted sapsucker. The holes are about the size of a straw, and sapsuckers use them to, well, suck sap from the trees. The grid of holes is often large. The grid in this photo, taken at Scouters Mountain Nature Park, was more than five feet tall and at least a foot across.
Heard but rarely seen, the Pacific wren is the forest's itsy-bitsy songster. The wren’s family name is Troglodytidae, which means ground-dweller, and you’re most likely to see one scampering than flying. In the winter, you have a chance to follow their songs until you can spot them on the forest floor. They're tiny but brave, and will often happily sing while you watch. (Photo: Karen & Mike, iNaturalist CC)