Tuesday, January 6, 2009
EATS IN THE SLEET
Last night's rain has turned to this morning's sleet. There's a thin coat of ice on everything, which is likely to increase dramatically if it continues sleeting throughout the morning. An ice overcoat might make for good photography, but it's already hazardous trying to walk across the graveled drive and deck. I filled both feeders with sunflower seeds soon after getting up, and scattered the usual ration of cracked corn plus a bit extra on the stump block, rocks, and ground. I always worry about the birds not having enough to eat when their usual wild tidbits are unavailable due to ice. Birds live on a thin margin during the winter; I wouldn't doubt the difference between surviving and dying often comes down to half a teaspoon of calorie-producing seed or grain. I don't want my carelessness to push even a single dooryard sparrow over the survival edge. Within moments of putting out the food, the birds were gathered round and busy breakfasting in numbers—juncos, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, various sparrows, finches both red and gold, cardinals. The Carolina wren even favored me with a snatch of song. The wire cage suet feeders hadn't needed refilling, but the various woodpeckers seemed to increase their numbers right along with the rest of the gang—downeys, red-bellieds. Even the pair of pileateds I'd noticed working their way up and down a couple of sycamore snags on the island across from the cottage flapped over to see what all the fuss was about. I was, however, most pleased when a pair of hairys came to dine. Hairys are the least common of the common lot here in this riverine woodland setting. I see them even less often than I do flickers. I've never had a red-headed woodpecker come a'callin', nor a yellow-bellied sapsucker. I suspect, given where I live, that I actually have likelier hopes of seeing the latter one day than the former…though either would be a prize.