One early afternoon in February a few years ago, I was working at my desk by a window that allowed views of our back lawn. At the time, beautiful snowflakes fell gently through still air from a gray sky.

Some fluffy flakes were particularly visible and appealing, dropping before a line of four tall, stately Norway spruce trees in our suburban neighborhood before settling lightly on those conifers’ densely packed needles or on the ground.

As I occasionally continued to watch the snowfall from my desk, all bushes, trees, and lawns in our neighborhood became heaped with lovely snow. The world visible from my desk changed dramatically in one afternoon.

And as I watched snow float down lightly before those majestic, snow-covered spruce trees, I noticed about 24 handsome mourning doves perched snugly on needled boughs.

Each bird was hunched in its light-brown, fluffed-out feathers that kept it comfortably warm in the cold and snow. And most of the doves were dozing between feeding forays to nearby birdfeeders and harvested cornfields.

Later in the afternoon, as dusk crept onto the snowy suburbs, I saw a little flock of sparrow-sized dark-eyed juncos flutter up from a birdfeeder and into the shadowy depths of lower spruce limbs. I saw the white tail feather on each side of every bird’s dark tail that causes a white V when the birds fly away.

And I noticed those white tail feathers disappear in the shady depths of those conifers when those little birds landed on needled twigs, where they will spend each winter night protected from cold wind and predators by those needled branches.

As the late-afternoon light faded, I continued to enjoy the peaceful beauty of the lightly falling snowflakes still piling slowly on needled branches and the ground. And those snowflakes, plus the deepening twilight, drew a veil before the comfortably resting doves and juncos that probably will spend the night in relative safety and comfort in the shelter of those beautiful spruce trees.

The simple beauties of those Norway spruce trees in our neighborhood, the falling snow, and the birds nestled for the night in those trees were all enjoyable and inspiring to me that snowy afternoon, as is most of nature, most of the time.

Readers, too, can enjoy nature right in your own neighborhoods. One only needs to look around, either through windows from inside or by going outdoors.


Clyde McMillan-Gamber is a retired Lancaster County Parks naturalist.

Have questions?

We are just a click away!