Thursday, January 5, 2012


4:30 p.m. on an early January day …

... As the winter afternoon subsides into dusk, I hear the distinctive sibilant tseep! of a White-throated Sparrow on the deck outside the kitchen window. I get up from my work to look, and sure enough, there it is, perched on the back of the bench under the wisteria. As I watch, it hops down to the deck to scavenge among the leavings there, the remnants that the other birds have left during the day. Unlike the titmice, chickadees, blue jays, and woodpeckers that come and go all day, the White-throats and the Cardinals seem to come to the feeder area only in the dimly-lit dawn and the dusky late afternoon.

I go outside through a side door, to get some fresh seed to throw down for them. Both the White-throats and the Cardinals prefer to feed on the ground, though the Cardinal will also perch on the suspended feeder.

My brief foray outdoors frightens them all away, of course, but by the time I’ve come back indoors, they are back, feeding busily to store energy for the cold winter night.

As night comes on in earnest, I can still hear them out there, calling softly to each other. Soon they’ll fly off, to tuck themselves into bunches of leaves under the hedgerow, or perhaps in some protected corner under the deck, there to spend the long, dangerous freezing hours of night.

When I come out to the kitchen tomorrow at dawn, they’ll be at breakfast on the deck, before they disperse to the edges of the property for their daytime ramblings.

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