I went out on the front steps, with a steaming cup of coffee in hand; to greet the sun as it arose this morning. It has been missing for several days now. I, in turn, am greeted by a raucous cacophony of sound. It seems as if all the birds are singing their hearts out after a long winter of silence. Stopping to bask for a moment in the rising sun's warm rays, I strain my ears to hear each different song and peer into the trees to see how many of my feathered friends have come for breakfast at the feeders, which hang just
outside of the kitchen porch.
A bright flash of yellow gives away the presence of the male Evening Grosbeaks. The zigzag band of yellow blazed across their forehead gives them a proud and fierce countenance. The soft pale grays of the females kept them well camouflaged until they moved. I feel compelled to respond to their continuous cries of “Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!” I call back, “I am not cheap! I buy the best bird seed I can afford!” Still they call me cheap; it is as if they are mocking me from the bare branches of the trees.
A sweet trill of notes announces the Goldfinches have arrived. It is still early spring and the males have not changed into their bright yellow finery. They all look like girls for now. It is a medium sized flock and they descend upon the gently swaying feeders as if they were one. They are a nervous little group. Shiny black eyes, reflecting the brightness of the sun, constantly scan the windows and sky above for signs of danger. Sitting on the many perches of the feeders, they socialize with one another as they eat. They have quite poor manners; often talking with their mouths full.
A flick of bright maroon, much like a large flower petal blowing on the wind, betrays the appearance of a male Purple Finch. If it were not for all the shifting little bumps on the branches surrounding him, you would think he was alone. The gray and brown stripes of the females keep them nearly invisible to the prying eyes of predators and bird watchers alike. They are eying the Goldfinches on the feeders; will it be worth the work of pushing and competing with all those hungry Goldfinches for feeder space? Then they spy the piles of seeds that the woodpecker has knocked from one feeder to the bare ground behind the snow bank. They decide that is the place to alight. There are seeds for breakfast and grit for dessert all in one warm, safe, and sunny spot.
The sound of a dull knock, knock, knock in the tree across the yard receives a response of frenzied hammering from further down the driveway. It is hard to tell if the frantic beating means, “Come on over big boy!” or “Don't you dare trespass on my territory!” His response is to hop onto the suet cake and peck away at it, seemingly quite unconcerned. I can tell by the size and the two red spots on the back of its head that it is a male Hairy Woodpecker.
There appears to be a number of small round stones lined up on top of the snow bank; some are dark gray and some a dull brown. The “stones” do not sit still for long though; they are Juncos taking a short rest from their morning's labor of seed gathering. They eat a little; then they take some of the sunflower seeds over to the woodpile where they disappear into the tiny slots between the logs, only to return a moment later. Sometimes they take small bits of the dried dead grass that is beginning to poke up along the edge of the plowed driveway. Nest building is a sure sign of spring's arrival even though there is still snow on the ground.
My constant companions of the winter, the Chickadees, come flitting from tree to tree singing, “Chick-a-Dee, Chick-a-Dee-Dee-Dee.” It is as if they are calling to each other, “Come have breakfast with me. Breakfast with me, me, me.” I think of them as the butterflies of winter when they flutter around the feeder on cold snowy days. Their manners are impeccable; they line up waiting patiently for their turn. Only one at a time, do they approach the feeder, take a seed and quickly hop to a nearby branch so the next one has their turn. They do not fear me and perch nearby. Their gleaming beady black eyes only shine with curiosity. If I stand very still they will land on my head or shoulder; but only for a moment or two.
At last, the sound I have been waiting for. A quiet “Nick, nick, nick,” and suddenly a small blue and white shape comes spiraling down around the tree headfirst. My favorite has arrived, the White-Breasted Nuthatch. I cannot help but laugh as he goes zooming head first down the tree towards the ground. Doesn't he get dizzy going round and round the tree trunk? The crisp black cap over a stark white face proves his maleness. Another form comes whizzing around the tree to a sudden stop behind him. A dark blue-collar stripe breaks the soft slate blue hood and shawl on her back. Although a bit smaller and more refined than her male counterpart she is every bit as quick.
It does not seem possible that all these birds have been living around me all winter and nary made a sound. Yet on this sunny morn, it seems as if a symphony and a chorus performing different songs are competing on the same stage. Their magnificent performance delights these ears and eyes that are so tired of the long winter.
Written by Debra Cone