I had just made it to the top of the first hill when I saw a beautiful Red Fox. His/her coat was perfect and the tail was just as fluffy as could be. He was hunting around that wood pile, stopping only briefly to stare at me.
A Red-Tailed Hawk came out of the trees by the pond and flew low across the orchard to land below, nearer the wetlands. I often see it perched in a tree down there, hunting.
At the top of the next hill, I heard the call of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. It flew off but moments later returned to the same tree trunk. An American Robin was also foraging in this same area. I think it must have been finding fallen fruit on the ground. There certainly was no earth soft enough to dig in!
I continued on along the back of the orchard, where the trail is bordered with heavy thickets. I figured this would have been a good spot for birds to go to survive the "polar vortex". I didn't see much, at first, but I heard some scratching around in the leaves, so I stood there for a few moments, waiting. I soon noticed this little rabbit, trying not to be seen.
Someone must have given an "all clear" signal to the birds. The thicket which had been quiet and seemingly empty was suddenly alive with Eastern Bluebirds, House Finches, and even a Carolina Wren. I had just read a blog earlier today that Carolina Wrens, which have recently expanded their territory more to the north, are probably more at-risk to survive these recent bitter temperatures. So, at least this one found a way to survive the cold!
It was a magical time as they flew around me, in and out of the thicket, down to the ground, up to fenceposts and down to milkweed stems and up to the branches of the apple trees, blue feathers flashing on all sides. I am so happy that they survived the frigid temperatures!