Cached In My Heart

I knew it was going to be a great day when snowflakes began to fall. And when asked the day before how I intended to spend yesterday, I said I’d probably read, bake, and knit. But . . . those plans were postponed for a few hours because that white stuff was falling and I heard it calling my name.

Thankfully, it was only my name that it called and for the first time since March, I stepped back into Pondicherry Park, a place that I love, but have intentionally avoided because so many others have discovered it as a tonic to the worries of the pandemic and I wanted to give them space, knowing I could find plenty of other places to explore with the same quest in mind. But . . . it was snowing, and I suspected that others might be home reading and baking and, well, maybe even knitting, and I would have the place to myself.

Soon, however, I discovered that I wasn’t really alone for even though the snow wasn’t piling up, tiny tracks on boardwalks indicated others were scampering about.

A few minutes into the hike, bright green moss invited me off trail to examine the base of pine where a hole beneath the tree . . .

and a cone still intact made me wonder: If this was the home of a little scamperer, what might it be eating other than this cone?

And then I twisted right–in more ways than one. And spread out along a downed pine and all around the base of another–a huge cache/midden: the cache being a collection of cones gathered and stored; and the midden being the refuse pile of scales and cobs left behind after the seeds were consumed.

I’ve been looking for one of these for a few weeks as the air temperature has dropped and wondered when the little guys would get their acts together and gather a supply to see them through winter.

One among them had, indeed, been busy, not only gathering, but dining, and with today being Thanksgiving, you might think this critter had the longest dining room table because it intended to invite everyone over for a meal.

But, its a feisty diner, and each meal is consumed quickly, with some chits and chats warning others to stay away–social distancing naturally.

Peeking under the dinner table, I discovered some cones tucked away in the pantry . . .

others in the fridge, with the door left open, thus exposing them to the elements . . .

and a few in cold storage.

On the other side of the pine table, holes in the midden showed the downstairs and upstairs doorways: all leading to Rome–or rather, the cache that must have been huge based on the size of the midden left behind. I did feel concern that so much had been consumed and there might not be enough for winter survival.

No need to worry. On the backside of the tree, three were tucked into furrows–making me think of a $20 bill stored away in a wallet, just in case.

My journey through the park eventually continued and meant a few pauses at favorite haunts, including one where the reflection nourishes my little friends . . . and me.

Occasionally more boardwalks curve through the landscape offering their own reflection–of this past year, which has taught us all that when there are curves in the road, we should follow and embrace them.

And if a hemlock grows beside a pine, it’s okay to cache your pinecone supply atop the former’s roots. You don’t always have do what the rest of us expect you to do.

Especially if you are the creator of the caches–a feisty Red Squirrel, ever ready to give chase to your siblings and chitter at any intruders such as me.

Of course, if you are a Gray Squirrel, you’ll take a different approach to winter preparations and store one acorn at a time and hope you remember where you left each one.

Three hours later, I finally found my way home, grateful that the stars had aligned, it had snowed, and I had the trails to myself. And then I began to bake, but never got around to reading or knitting or even writing this post for the phone kept ringing and there were envelopes and gifts to open, messages and emails galore to read, and cake to consume, and though we can’t be with our family or friends today, I gave thanks that on my birthday the squirrels let me share their world for a wee bit and I was showered with so much love–that I’ve cached in my heart.

Fair-feathered Friends

Thankfully, the prediction for 8-12 inches of snow for today didn’t come true. But it did snow, rain and sleet. And the birds were on the move.

b-red-winged 2

The moment I stepped out the door to fill the feeders and spread seed and peanuts on the ground I was greeted by the kon-ka-reeee of the red-winged blackbirds who stopped by for a few hours. Their songs filled the air with the promise of spring.

b-cowbirds

And with them came a few friends. Or were they? It seemed the cowbirds may have been scheming.

b-cowbird female

Mrs. Cow perhaps choosing others who might raise her young one day soon.

b-song sparrow

Another recent visitor also added its song to the chorus and its streaked breast to the landscape–such is the manner of the song sparrow.

b-tree sparrow1

American tree sparrows, on the other hand, have been frequent flyers all winter. This one paused long enough to show off its bicolored bill and white wing bars.

b-robins

And then there were those who chose to visit from a distance–the American robins appeared as ornaments in the oak and maple trees.

b-crow sentry

Meanwhile, a crow stood sentry–allowing all to eat in peace as it was ever ready to announce any intruders.

b-white-breasted nuthatch

And so they came and went–some upside down like the white-breasted nuthatch.

b-chickadee waiting

Others waiting patiently for a turn,

b-chickadee at feeder

confident in the knowledge that the wait was worth the reward.

b-chick and junco

But not all . . .

b-junco in lilac

that waited . . .

b-junco waiting

remained patient.

b-junco--cigar?

The juncos gobbled the seeds . . .

b-junco with peanut

and the peanuts.

b-junco fight 1a

And like siblings, they squabbled . . .

b-junco fight 1

with attitude . . .

b-junco fight 2

and insistence.

b-junco fight 3

Of course, there was always a winner.

b-junco up close

I love these plump winter visitors with their head and flanks completely gray, contrasting white  breasts and pale pink bills–making the junco an easy ID.

b-gray squirrel

They weren’t the only gray birds to visit the feeders. Oh, you mean a gray squirrel isn’t a bird?

b-squirrel in its tracks

Nor is the red. Don’t tell them that.

b-deer in yard

The same is true of this dear friend, who first spied some action in the distance . . .

b-deer looking at me

and then turned its eyes on the bird seed and me. But with one periscope ear, it still listened to the action to my right.

b-deer flying away

And then as fast as the birds that feed here all day, but flit in and out when they hear the slightest noise or sense a motion, the deer turned and flew off as a car drove up the road.

I played the role of a fair-weather naturalist today as I watched my feathered friends from indoors.

With friends in mind, I dedicate this post to my mom’s dear friend, Ella, who passed peacefully in her sleep the other day. I trust Mom has put the coffee pot on and she, Aunt Ella and Aunt Ruth are watching the birds out the kitchen window.