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Some Things Don’t Wait

Monday, January 3, 2022.  Chores and tasks lay ahead.  Laundry.  Respond to emails.  Make plans for a club meeting.  Submit a column to the newspaper. 

            The column, a letter addressed to 2022, was written and ready for one more read-aloud. Then Husband’s edits:  insert words I omitted or maybe add an s to a word I meant to write plural.

            But Mother Nature gave us snow and Monday tasks and that column, fell to the wayside. I sat where I begin most days to drink coffee, list blessings, read a devotion, write notes, and watch a few birds.  But Monday, I munched on grapes and drank coffee and stared outside for a long time.

            Except for driveways and streets, everything was white – clean, brilliant, beautiful.  Every branch, every twig, were laden with snow and many more birds came to our birdfeeder that is about 18” from my window. 

            Brown house finches ate quickly and flew.  A downy woodpecker pecked into an open feeder hole as he would into a dead tree.  A red Northern cardinal perched, but didn’t eat until a female cardinal sat beside him.  Both held seeds in their beaks and turned their heads side to side before flying away. 

            A Carolina chickadee, smaller than the other birds, perched at the feeder’s top as if claiming ownership before he chose a perch and stayed a while.  A tufted titmouse joined the chickadee, not giving up his perch quickly.

            I didn’t immediately identify several birds about the size of house finches.  Their dark charcoal -colored backs and tailfeathers set off their white bellies and orange beaks.  Looking through my bird field guide, I found the junco, a sparrow that winters in the southeastern states.  And I found a date I’d written when I’d spotted juncos another time: February, 2021.

            Doves strutted slowly on the ground and picked up seeds that had been dropped by other birds.   I admired their patience.

            Then I learned my Grands across town were playing outside. “I’m coming over,” I texted Daughter.  She responded, “Come quickly. After two hours outside, it’s almost time for hot chocolate.”

            “Want to ride down the hill, Gran?” Lucy asked.  While I considered how steep the hill was and the many trees, my Grand jumped onto her sled and flew down the hill.  I didn’t sled or roll like a log down the hill or throw fistfuls of snow down anyone’s coat, but I did make the biggest snow angel and stomp a giant S while my Grand stomped all the letters to spell her name.

            I lost miserably playing a game of UNO that went on and on because nobody, my four Grands nor I, wanted it to end.  What’s better than sitting inside a warm house, wrapped in a blanket, and drinking hot chocolate after playing outside on winter’s first snow day?

            Chores and tasks wait.  Playing with Grands and watching birds do not.   

            And that previously written column?  Maybe it’ll keep until next week.

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Backyard Nature Movie

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            Last Friday was a day for the birds.  My list of chores and errands vanished into thin air when I raised the shade covering the kitchen window and saw a skiff of snow and birds on my birdfeeder.

The birds must have been happy that I’d finally filled their feeder with sunflower seed.  Sometime last fall I mindlessly bought a 40-pound bag of Deluxe Bird Food.  The price was right.  I watched as bird after bird threw white millet and red milo seeds onto the ground and emptied the feeder.  And then, after a few days, very few birds nibbled, much less ate, my bargain seed.  A couple of weeks ago, I filled my feeder with sunflower seed and hung two nets filled with finch seed.  And last Friday while my bird friends dined, I couldn’t pull myself away from the show.

A dozen or more house finches ate side by side on the two eighteen-inch cloth mesh nets.  Some birds hung vertical with heads up, some upside down, some sideways.  I wondered if a finch doesn’t like to dine alone.  As a group they flew away and then returned a few minutes later.  Two, three, four – until once again a small flock pecked at the tiny black seeds.

Isn’t a northern cardinal its prettiest on a snowy day?  Why would a male sit on my snow-covered deck railing just three inches from the sunflower-filled feeder?  Maybe waiting for his mate?  When the female cardinal hopped onto a metal perch to eat, he joined her for a quick snack.  She stayed for a five-course meal and was happy to dine with tufted titmice, a white-breasted nuthatch, and purple finches.

And then a woodpecker zoomed in and all the other birds scattered.  A red-bellied woodpecker.  Try explaining to a five-year old child that a woodpecker with a red head is not a red-headed woodpecker.  My Grand was sure that I was confused.  “Look, at his coloring,” I explained.  “See the black and white ladder on his wings and back?  That’s how you know he’s a red-bellied, not a red-headed woodpecker.”  I agreed that I couldn’t see red on his belly and yes, maybe he should’ve been named the black-and-white laddered woodpecker.  The smaller birds filled every perch as soon as the Mr. Red Bellied flew away.

A rufous-sided towhee, really a large sparrow, swooped in.  With his tail pumping, he hopped across the deck railing to the feeder, appearing to choose his favorite perch.  He came  dressed for a dinner party – white belly, black head, and distinct brown and black markings.  Just when I thought the show outside my window couldn’t be better, a pair of deer trotted across the yard.  She pranced.  He, with his tall antlers, strutted.

Last Friday’s snow wasn’t deep enough for my Grands to sled down my backyard hill.  (I’m still hoping for a ‘real’ snow so we can have a sled party.)  But a dusting of snow was plenty for the setting of a backyard nature movie.  All for the price of a bag of sunflower seeds.

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