Tuesday, January 12, 2010
My days are filled with birds.
Dawn brings the seed-eaters to my doorstep. The two feeders that hang from the bare branches of the lilac bush are always filled with millet and sunflower seeds for the small songsters that winter over. By first light the chickadees, the little white-breasted snowbirds, and a pair of cardinals are breakfasting just outside my window. They come unannounced and speak quietly among themselves. Only the jays make noise. They perch and sway on the bendy branches at the very the top of the lilac and screech. I stand at the door and watch them, the steam from my teacup curling up and fogging the window. When I rub it with my sleeve, the motion frightens them and the jays take off like buckshot.
Most times when I open the door the chickadees merely flutter and hop to the far side of the bush. They are not as timid as the snowbirds or the tiny finches that dart off at the slightest movement. If it is not too cold, and it is near their feeding time, I can stand still with my hand outstretched and a chickadee or two will light on my fingers and eat the seed from my palm.
Where summer birds herald the sunrise, winter birds don’t sing at all – they talk. They twitter to one another. They might chirp a warning or tootle a couple of notes but they don’t sing melodies the way songbirds do. They’re too cold, I suspect, and too busy eating. Their limited tonal offerings only accentuate the great silence, that deep hush that descends with the cold and underlies all sound.