One at a time they flicker down through the trees, so tiny I think they can never hold their own against winter’s fresh snow and cold. But they do.
I stand at my kitchen window, breakfast preparations on hold, as I watch then gather, flitting closer and closer until they finally make it to the platform feeders, or the house feeder, or the suet feeder against the tree.
I get anxious. I haven’t put new seed out yet. They’re hungry, and have come to eat, come to this outdoor buffet they’ve learned to depend on. Somehow, though, they find food, scratching through the snow cover, digging through the empty hulls to find a seed or two left behind from yesterday.
Never mind our breakfast. The critters are coming and I can’t resist. I grab the “bird bowl” and fill it with sunflower seeds and shelled peanuts, throw some whole peanuts on top, slip into my boots and coat, and quietly open the door.
Wings flutter and they’re gone, leaving the feeders swinging and puffs of snow falling from where they’ve taken refuge on snow-covered branches.
I toss peanuts to the ground, empty the hulls from the platforms, and listen to the chick-a-dee-dee-dee from an unseen watcher and the screech of a blue jay, just waiting for me to get out of the way.
Back in the house, I go to the window again. For a few minutes, it looks empty of life out there as they test the wisdom of returning. Hunger wins. I stand still and let my eyes pick up the peripheral movement. A chickadee dive-bombs in a hit-and-run attack on the feeder, grabbing a goodie and darting off. A nuthatch does a head-first descent down the tree, makes a stab or two at the suet, heads for the feeder for a shelled peanut. A junco roots through seeds fallen to the ground, a flicker clings to the side of a platform and gently chooses a peanut piece. A little downy woodpecker, house finches, barely recognizable pale goldfinches–they all flit, flutter, dash in, dash out.
Squirrels show up, too–fat, furry bodies with white tufts behind their ears. One buries his peanuts in the snow so he can hurry back for more. Even crows swoop in to dine on peanuts thrown in the front of the house to make smaller birds feel safe. They have to beat the blue jays, though, who swoop and grab while the crows are still sizing up the situation.
This morning ritual is precious, one of the first delights of the day.