Cheap Seats

Setting: A backyard in western Maine on what some might consider a bleak spring day, e.g. a snowy April 8th.

(Cock-eyed bird feeders indicative of ground thawing—really)

Act I, Scene i: I must wonder when “In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.” This one, however, marched on, soon to leave, not once uttering, “Nevermore.”

Act II, Scene i: (enter stage left), And then said one Junco to another, “Junco, Junco, wherefore art thou Junco?” (exit center stage only when sliding snow falls from the roof and lands on the ground with a smack, thus startling all)

Act II, Scene ii: (enter stage right) Where there’s a Junco these days, so is there a Song Sparrow, its conical beak ever ready to crack open a seed. (exit stage left after chasing the Juncos around)

Act II, Scene iii: (enter stage left, right and center) Not to be left out of the gang, Black-capped Chickadees flew in and out at a much quicker pace, grasping a seed and taking it to a Lilac branch to break it open. (exit stage left and then fly in and out, over and over again.)

Act II, Scene iiii: (enter stage right) Making noise as he arrived, a Downy Woodpecker showed off his preference for suet over seed. (exit stage left, with undulating flight)

Intermission: All goes silent as the lights go up in the theatre and in flies a Barred Owl. (finally)

As often happens during Intermission, the owl looked about at the offering of treats. 

He checked the cupcakes and cookies on sale to the left. 

And then he turned his focus to the right, where the drinks were on tap. 

He even checked out the items below his feet, hoping upon hope to find a morsel to his liking.

Despite all the choices, or maybe because of them, he had to stretch out one leg . . . 

and scratch an itch. 

Eventually he changed his orientation to take a better look at the entire spread of food. 

But still, he couldn’t make up his mind and so he looked some more. 

And swiveled his neck around. 

By the time intermission ended, he hadn’t made up his mind and so he moved off without munching any of the specialty items. 

Act III Scene i: (enter stage left, right, and center) The large flock of Juncos flew in, flew out, and flew in again. (exit the same way came in, dispersing in every direction)

Act III, Scene ii: (enter stage left) From the shrubs we hear the song first and then Mr. Cardinal flies to the Lilac. (quickly exit stage right)

Act III, Scene iii: (enter stage left) Mrs. Cardinal arrives only after her guy has flown off. She shows her determination to dine on some morsels of corn.

Act III, Scene iv: (stay on stage, move to the right, then turn sharp left) Showing her determination, she lets nothing stop her. 

Act III, Scene v: (center stage) With a kernel of corn in her beak, she shows off her success. (exit stage right as she searches for her Mr.)

Act IV, Scene i: (enter stage left, right and center) A repeat performance of the Juncos and Song Sparrows (exit every which way when the snow once again flies off the roof)

Act V, Scene i: (enter stage right) With its own flash of color an American Robin pays a brief visit to the stage (exit stage left)

Act V, Scene ii: (enter stage left) With its breast not quite as vibrant, a Red-breasted Nuthatch ponders the possibilities. 

Act V, Scene iii: (center stage) And a decision was made, a morsel of suet consumed. (exit stage right)

Act V, Scene iv: (enter stage right) Waiting until almost the end of the performance, a pair of Tufted Titmice flew in, grabbed a quick bite, and flew off again in the direction from whence they’d come. (exit stage right)

Act VI, Scene i: (enter stage right) Outlasting his Junco relatives, the Song Sparrow continued to eat . . .

Act VI, Scene ii: (center stage) and eat evermore, whether a caged bird or not. (exit stage right)

Act VII, Scene i: (enter stage right) And then a Hermit Thrush sat upon the Quaking Aspen sapling to mark the final act.

Act VII, Scene ii: (center stage) Its upturned bill will soon provide us with the most beautiful, yet hauntingly exquisite song; clear, musical phrases will blend brilliantly as ethereal, harmonious tones. Spring really has arrived in western Maine. (exit stage left)

Grand Finale: (center stage) Spring arrives in its own rendition each year. And the Barred Owl watches.

We watched as well, thankful for the cheap seats that turned out to be the best seats.

Neither Snow, Nor Freezing Rain, Nor Sleet . . .

Church was cancelled this morning and it seemed like the perfect day to stay inside, read the newspaper, complete the crossword puzzle, and keep an eye on the bird feeders.

And so I did. Among my feathered friends was a Tufted Titmouse that seemed to stand back and consider the offerings,

a Junco that chose the thistle,

and an Eastern Starling who made quick work of the suet. For those who aren’t fans of the Starling, this was the first of the season and actually four flew in today. I have to say I’m rather taken by their coloration.

Of course, not one to go unnoticed, a red squirrel came out of its tunnel below one of the feeders and looked about as if to say either, “Hey lady, where’d you hide the peanuts?” or “Hey lady, when are you going to come out and play?” I preferred to think it was the latter and so I headed out the door.

Because of the weather, I chose a baseball hat for headgear so the visor would keep the snow off my glasses. And then I did what I always do when wearing a baseball cap–I forgot to look up and bumped into the pergola. Boink.

But, the pain was momentary and so I continued on. Soon I realized I wasn’t the only one who had responded to the call to head outdoors. Quite often mammals leave behind sign that tells me who has passed by and I wasn’t disappointed for today I found signatures . . . of Eddie, Annie, Emma, and Veronica.

I wondered if I might find their creators. Was Eddie the mink that had slid and bounded just moments before and left fresh prints?

I followed his tracks in hopes of catching a glimpse and knew he’d passed under a fallen tree and traveled along a brook.

He’d also paused briefly beside an opening, but it appeared that rather than enter the water to forage as he could have done, he continued on. And so did I, meeting his tracks quite often, but never spying the mink that he was.

Any other tracks I spied were diluted by the precipitation, and so I turned my attention to the mushrooms that had donned their winter caps. From the false tinkerconk to . . .

the tinkerconk,

hemlock varnish shelf,

and red-belted polypore, all appeared to have shopped at the same hat boutique.

Traveling through these woods on such a day with not a soul about made me ever mindful of the transition taking place as snow gave way to freezing rain and then sleet.

But it didn’t bother the female mallard that flew in and landed right below me.

Nor did it bother me. In fact, I loved it. I know the advent of frost heaves and potholes along our roadways are signs that spring is around the corner and even today’s weather was an indicator, but I don’t want winter to end just yet.

Neither snow, nor freezing rain, nor sleet . . . can keep the squirrel or me from digging our way out of our tunnels.

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.