Saturday, February 21, 2009

WINTER GOLD

The morning snow was brief but intense—enough to practically cover the ground over the space of thirty minutes. Watching it come down, swirling in every direction, it was easy to expect more than just this fraction of an inch. Meager though the snow amount turned out, it was apparently sufficient to stir the birds. Scarcely had the first flake appeared before traffic at the various feeders tripled. A sudden hungry horde, all jostling and yattering like starving teenagers at a high-school cafeteria. Chickadees, titmice, juncos, nuthatches, a variety of sparrows, house finches, cardinals, a couple of wrens, and a profusion of woodpeckers including the paranoid pileated who flew in to snatch a few quick hammers at the suet cage before dashing back across the river. In other words, the usual morning line-up of suspects. Squirrels, too—five of ‘em, leaping, jumping, chasing each other around at breakneck speed, briefly startling the feathered guests working the hanging baskets of sunflower seeds, or shoving aside the ground feeders in order to nuzzle through the cracked corn like bushy-tailed pigs. This feeding frenzy had been going on for several minutes when the goldfinches arrived, carried in on a snowy gust like a handful of splendiferous confetti. Winter gold from a leaden sky. The goldfinches still wore their drab seasonal dress, of course—shades of olive-gold rather than their resplendent summer namesake hues of dazzling yellow. Which was fine by me. Gold that needs a polish is still valuable treasure. And this quick squadron of goldfinches in their muted raiment were nevertheless royalty. Besides, I’m not sure an Ohio winter watcher is prepared to witness birds as brilliant as marigolds. But my, oh my…how such breathtaking creatures would light up a dismal February morning!

16 comments:

The Solitary Walker said...

Aha, the goldfinches! Quite different from the English variety.
Lovely pic!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

Ha! I knew that—though only because I looked them up at the same time I looked up those greenfinches you mentioned a month or two back. Today seemed like good day to have some fun.

Our goldfinches are a much, much brighter yellow in their summer dress. But no, not the same birds. And I'm still envious of those woodpeckers…

giggles said...

Nice psot...again....

Oh, I do love goldfinches!! Olive drab or bright gold.... I'll take 'em any way I can get them...!

I've often wondered .... Do you think (or know) if birds sense a change in barometric pressure and feed when those changes are on the way, in anticipation of the weather? (Or in this case, they arrived at exactly the same time...)

I often notice a lot of activity (real or imagined?) before a major storm rolls in and can tell (I imagine, again...) if the teevee weatherpeople are right or wrong based on the birds' activity.... (The birds have told me all winter long, that the weatherpeople have been wrong....)

Am I wacko?

Jenn Jilks said...

We've had a pileated woodpecker hanging off the feeder. Aren't they precious! Nice post.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Wacko? Not unless your psychiatrist has it written down on diagnosis portion of your chart. Otherwise, I say no more than pleasantly off center. ;-)

Wrong about the birds sensing a coming storm? Not at all, though whether this is due to a lowering barometer or something else (better weather forecasters, a willingness to employ any excuse to hit the buffet) I'm not sure. I know I've read research into such things, maybe in the books of Bernd Heinrich, but I'm ashamed to say I've forgotten the conclusion.

I do remember research that disproved the old notion that swallows or martins perched or flew lower as a weather front approached.

But birds certainly congregate at the feeding stations the moment a winter storm begins, and seemingly sometime beforehand. Like grocery shoppers invading the mega-stores and cleaning their shelves before a big snow.

Which is where I've just been, BTW. Not because I feared a storm or needed groceries, but because I wanted to pick up a gift and card for a family birthday gathering this evening. However, this morning's few snowflakes had apparently put the fear of imminent starvation into the half-minds legions of crazy shoppers. They were out in droves. Mean, grumpy, locked in a survivor me-against-them mentality, and willing to run you over with their piled-high carts if they thought you might make it to the Fruit-Loops shelf before them. (Has Fruit-Loops ever actually saved anyone from anything?)

Worse yet, these 40-acre grocery stores now provide electric carts so the aged and infirm won't have to hike from the dairy section to the wine department while pushing a cart. Who came up with this brilliant scheme? Were they nuts? What could store management have been thinking? Have they never set foot on their own isled floors during a pre-storm shop-out? Would they give an alcoholic granny a loaded handgun and put her in a crowded elevator with orders to "whoop it up!"? Well, of course not. But they provide POWERED CARTS into the hands of kamikaze shoppers and expect the rest of us to survive.

I'll tell you this—if they ever open the season on storm-crazed grocery shoppers, I intend to bag a few…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

Astonishing is more what I'd call 'em. They look absolutely huge compared to the little downies. And when they drape themselves over one of my suet cages, they remind me of a caped Bela Lugosi bending over a maidenly taste of o-positive in that old Dracula film…at least in a red-headed pterodactyl sort of way.

But really neat birds.

Annie Wicking said...

What a wonderful blog! I love your Redbird, what a stunner!

Best wishes,

Annie

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Annie…

I'm pleased you liked these riverside ramblings—especially the redbird shot from yesterday.

I hope you'll visit again. You are always welcome.

giggles said...

A tad bit frustrated, are we??!! OMG!! Let's everyone panic!!!!!

Thanks for your reply....

I'm not wacko..everyone else is....

Bella said...

Ambling through your older posts I came across a photo of what appeared to be a squashed-up washcloth and a glance at the attached text were the words "Our Lady of the Washrag...the Terrycloth Troll.." - was this an errant post on an unfortuante experience with a lazy cleaning lady, I wondered.

Oh dear, Grizzled, this was so wonderfully funny it stayed with me for the day, particularly the photo...makes me chuckle every time I think about it.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Perception is reality.

Frustrated? Naaaaah. Just momentarily homicidal.

Actually, I enjoy grocery shopping—no kidding. It's like foraging without muddy knees and trespass issues. But I know better than to grocery shop on Fridays or weekends—and I really know better than to darken the doorstep when there's the report or rumor of a snowflake somewhere in the county. Even so, I was revolted by the desperate and greedy melee I encountered—a herd of cart-pushing swine at the trough. Why, I was barely able to club an octogenarian couple from my path in the SNACKS isle and secure a box of Fig Newtons.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bella…

I can assure you, there was nothing funny about being au naturel and in a soapy lather, only to glance down and see that impish hag's face staring at your…well, your revealed carcass.

Believe me, a slippery shower stall is no place to practice a sudden capacity for levitation—which was my only option, seeing how a fit of girlish screams wouldn't have been in keeping with my manly persona.

Alas, there was no cleaning lady upon which to heap the blame for the errant and unnerving washrag manifestation. As is so often the case…I was both victim and perpetrator.

Val said...

I needed a good laugh today and your comments hit the spot!
: )

Gail said...

Beautiful writing and images to embrace. I see such similar beauty here - snow and birds and squirrels and red fox, deer and even a coyote or two has been spotted.

I feel so blessed to live in the woods, surrounded by nature....
You certainly capture so many of my sentiments, fascination and daily gratitudes.

Peace and beauty
Gail

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

I can't believe you thought I was being silly!

I say, if you can't have a few laughs in life, you're too grown up.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Sounds like you live in a good place, too. There are some nice things to be found in cities, but the best of them generally just fulfill my needs; nature and the out of doors fulfills my soul. I'll take my riverbank cottage over a highrise penthouse any day.