In the snowless months my bird feeders were well away from the front door and the flower beds. Now -when a fall could shatter my hip- I have moved them nearer the door. I will pay for the safety in April, when I will have to rake up the debris.
I find watching the feeders hypnotic, a respite in these awful last days of this awful year. The same birds come in sequence every day. A handful of juncos. Then, with more light, the scout blue jay. Once he spots that most desirable of desirables, the shelled peanut, he calls his fellows, for blue jays are loyal to each other, and would never show up solo at a dinner table. Once at the feeder in numbers ,they are as solicitous of the chickadees and the titmice and the woodpeckers as they are of their kin. They are the sentinels who expose the Cooper’s hawk as she eyes the dooryard buffet.
The Mourning doves come in numbers as well, and they strut over the seed on the snow like plump, gray, Colonial grandmothers. They have a sweet, docile look, yet last week I watched one, irritated by a jay, pounce on the jay , toss him on his back and give him a thumping-
The big birds I feed on the ground. The smaller, more delicate titmice, chickadees, and nuthatches eat at the tube feeders . They are picky eaters and remind me of my late Pekinese Cho-Cho, who would pick up kibble one bit at a time , but only after an examination. The little birds do not find every sunflower worthy, but their standards are lower when it comes to the peanut.
When I go out to refill the platform feeder, the crowd scatters, but two times now,as I was dumping sunflower seeds with my hand, a Red breasted nuthatch landed within my reach. Living as he does in tall Northern pines fifty feet up, he seems never to have heard of the sorry reputation of the human race. He looked at me, picked out a seed, then flew calmly away. Having seen him so close, I would describe his breast as reddish apricot.
Three days ago, after a foot of snow, the squirrels retreated to their nests. I saw only one, and he was in struggle mode trying to run while sinking.
Both red squirrels and gray are back this morning. They find the door yard congenial . No baffles on poles . No rodent proof feeders. They are big eaters and like the birds, worship the Peanut. The red squirrel is not cordial to the gray, and despite being small, can punch above his weight. The gray squirrels are playful , and chase each other just for fun. They are brave to live in this front yard, which is visited at dawn by a red fox.
In the ice less months I buy feeder food at the local hardware store, and it is costly, since I cannot tackle 40 lb bags of anything. The store is in a small Faux rural town close to Manchester. One street down the middle of town with traffic gridlock as bad as I ever saw in Nashville- But now I order off the Internet, and big bags land just outside my door. Cracked corn. Sunflower seeds. Peanut hearts.
By late February there will be new flocks to feed. Redwings come back then, and a few grackles.( My landlord’s handy man brings out the blue plastic tubing that drains sap from the giant maples along the drive.)
And being only 20 miles north of the border from what Mrs. Appleyard called “tropical Massachusetts”, there will be bare grass and robins.