Monday, January 21, 2013
Twilight. The last of the day is fading fast, and the birds are busy at the feeders getting in their final bites before heading off to seek a safe night roost. A male house finch sits on a nearby branch, awaiting his turn—his head and rear back feathers glowing crimson in the dimming light. A delicate living jewel.
A lot of folks hereabouts don't think much of this fellow and his kind. After all, he isn't one of us. Nope. They're a western species which spread east; a sort of native invader. I saw my first one in the early-1970s. It was springtime, the world was fragrantly a'bloom and love was in the air. I was heading into a used bookstore in Cincinnati when a boisterous bit of unfamiliar avian music stopped me in my tracks. The singer was perched a dozen feet away, in the top of a pink flowering crab. Even then, I think I was captivated—by the male's bright red markings as much as its song.
How can you not like such an exquisite little bird?
Tonight's low is supposed to bottom out at 3˚F. Seriously cold. How will this tiny bird survive? That they somehow manage, along with all the other birds which choose to spend their winters here in this southwest corner of Ohio, is nothing short of a miracle…or so it seems to me. I've spent my own bitter winter nights outdoors, hunkered in wooded hollows and under rocky cliffs, often as not shivering in my fancy sleeping bag. Cold kills if you're not prepared. Is this precious finch prepared? Can he find shelter from the wind? Has he eaten enough sunflower seeds to keep him warm through the cold, cold darkness?
Yeah, I know…in my dotage, I'm doubtless turning into a worrying old woman.