Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Just Listen

The master painter had painted the land crystal white 
 As the night painted a black sky
When the timid gray dawn crept in
 I was in awe and asked what to do
 The elder said to “Just be, simply listen.” 
But you cannot hear the snowfall 
 You cannot hear the white shadows 
 You cannot hear the roots of the trees as they hang on
“They are all talking to you 
 But you have to shut the door behind you 
 You have to hold your breath 
 You have to close your eyes 
 You have to empty your mind
Come sit on the bench with me 
Do you hear?”

And, yes, I heard the geese 
as they lofted the snow from their backs 
even though they were a mile away
as they traded war stories

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Slowly, like a Hibernating Bear Disturbed by Those Waterbirds

When the early morning is below freezing, I see the sunrise through the trees to the east fighting its way forward like some sleepy and confused bear wondering why it must get up so early. The Sun starts its morning fire which looks as if it is struggling to ignite. It grows into a baby pink and the clouds get their bottoms slapped with it to let us know that Old Man Sun is trying to warm the winter side of the earth.

I try to encourage the Old Man with a smile.  The winter shadows cling along with the crusty snow that outlines the skeletons of the trees.  

Eventually, the sun hits the dark bark of the big oak tree and I feel like I am seeing some rare and beautiful episodic painting that lasts only a few minutes and then melts into day,

Here, at last, my side of the earth is awakening. 

I have been sleeping on and off all night.  There are four or five pods of Canadian geese that shelter in our finger of the river.  They erupt in cries and cackles periodically.  Loud and arguing through the darkness of night, perhaps over whether they are far enough from the edge of the river to avoid that beautiful rust-colored fox that lives somewhere in the ravine.

Every year in the darkest of the night it sounds like a wild frat party across the stillness of winter.  For Canadians, they are not all that well-behaved, until the sun makes their white breasts glow like searchlights, and then they get quiet and start their quick regimented paddle to the more open river.

There are four Mourning Doves that hang out near the bowl of seed and the heated birdbath on my deck.  Some winters they just wait on the edge of the bath and enjoy the warmer air. They do not coo at this time of year.  They are patient and can wait for their turn at the food, although I have seen them argue among themselves as to who will get that last sunflower seed.  I do not see them chase others of a different kind.  Maybe because they know we make them the symbol of peace.  I think that dove above is flirting.

Well, now that bear is fully awake, I need a second cup of coffee.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 02, 2022


As my long-time readers may remember, I count birds at my feeders during the winter months to participate in the Cornell Feeder Watch program. This data helps us understand how bird populations change or move to new areas of the United States and Canada or evaluate patterns of migration. It also helps us understand how they may be changing due to the challenges of climate change. I understand that some "people" believe that climate change is like a religion and optional as to whether you believe in it or not, but with all due respect they are idiots.  Birds tell us a great deal about changes in nature.

"Project FeederWatch is supported almost entirely by its participants. The annual participation fee is $18 for U.S. residents ($15 for Cornell Lab members). Canadians can participate by donating any amount to Birds Canada. These contributions cover materials, staff support, web design, data analysis, and the year-end report (Winter Bird Highlights). Without the support of our participants, this project wouldn’t be possible.

Project FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada. Since 2016, Project FeederWatch has been sponsored by Wild Bird Unlimited."

I have learned that the ground feeder birds such as White Throats will also fly up and try to use the hanging feeders when what drops below is gone.  They are not designed to 'bend' that way as they are bobbers, but they learn.  

Yes, a bit blurry!
I have learned that the best suet feeders for my woodpeckers include a plank to rest their tails just like they would naturally do against a tree trunk or branch. 

The Blue Jays are greedy and stuff their crops (a muscular pouch that is an extension of a bird’s esophagus used to store excess food prior to digestion) before leaving my bowl feeders. See his bulging crop?

I have learned that sometimes I get this rare visitor below, which I think is a thrasher.  I am all for thrashing away the old year!  Now I must get back to my counting.