I used to live in a house across the road from a small grocery. The store and its parking lot were in plain sight from my family-room window—and since I spent a fair amount of time looking out, I kept pretty good track of the comings and goings at the little market. Friday, being payday for many area residents, was generally the busiest day; from late-afternoon after day-shift workers got off until closing time, a steady stream of patrons parked, disappeared inside, only to reappear some time later carrying sacks of foodstuffs. Many, perhaps with big families to feed, pushed their bags of purchases out in laden carts.
That was the usual drill. But just let a few snowflakes appear—or the TV and radio broadcast dire warnings of an impending snowstorm—and the local citizenry descended upon that grocery like ants on a sugar cube! Hordes of desperate customers, apparently faced with the prospects of looming starvation should they fail to stuff their larders with food sufficient to keep them fat and sassy for a month!
It was quite a circus. Parking spaces were at a premium. Some parked their cars across the street; others left a designated driver at the wheel to circle the block, or park illegally somewhere nearby and keep the engine idling, ready for a fast getaway should a police car appear. Inside the market, shelves were being stripped of their goods faster than stock boys could resupply…and at some point, things simply ran out. Not just edible things, mind you—but nearly everything from chewing gum to hairspray to mosquito repellant, even though mosquito weather was easily several months away. You have to wonder about human nature sometimes—especially when faced with a crisis so small it barely rated as an inconvenience.
Birds and animals are far more orderly and well behaved. Even on a day such as this, which has been one of snow, snow, and more snow—starting in the middle of the night and continuing more-or less nonstop; it's snowing, still, a fine sifting with a few larger flakes in the mix. Not that it has amounted to a lot; perhaps another 8 inches on top of our earlier snow, which had packed some. The most I can measure anywhere in the yard is 12-14 inches.
Still, a bird or squirrel has to eat. Food means calories with means body heat which translates to survival. Critters eat to live—as we all do, of course, except they're usually working on a far narrower margin. In their case, obtaining and consuming plenty of food isn't just a case of going to sleep with a full stomach…it's living through the night and waking up tomorrow morning. Thank God most us us will never know that fine a line!
I've kept my feeders stocked and plenty of grain scattered. And the food bar has been busy from daylight onward. I'd like to think everyone had plenty.
Cardinals have led the charge, as they always do. I don't know how many redbirds live around here, but they're generally the most numerous—and certainly the most visible—species at the feeders. More than once I counted a couple of dozen, males and females, within 20 feet of the front door and deck.
In addition to the cardinals, I had quite a few white-throated and tree sparrows show up; downy, hairy, and red-belied woodpeckers; titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, a few juncos and a handful of starlings; doves; mallards up from the river; and goldfinches, house finches, and purple finches, though for some reason, their numbers are way down from a month ago.
The great blue heron has spent the day standing on various ice shelves or snow-covered rocks, fishing either in the mainstream or the small channel dividing the two islands. Yesterday the kingfisher was diving like gangbusters, working busily for hours; I never saw or heard the bird today, though.
Squirrels have been in short supply. Most, I suspect, are curled up in a warm, communal pile deep in the snug confines of their sycamore hollow nest. Only a couple bothered to make their way from the big tree to the box elder where the feeders hang.
So that the report from the riverbank. Everyone is fed and in fine fettle, including the heron because I watched him nail several not-so-small baitfish while I was having my own lunch by the front window. I'm a pretty good fisherman…but that ol' heron is even better.