As always, when one shows up, the other is not far behind. The Grackles are here today! These marvelous iridescent black birds with dark feathers shimmering resplendent in blue, green, and purple in the sunlight. They mingle with the red wings and maul the feeders with gusto and bravado. I could watch for hours as they flap, hop, strut, peck, fly around, dancing in the yard. The sun is playing hide and seek with the clouds as snow flakes flurry in swirling confusion, while elegant red wing black birds and exquisite grackles delight in the plentiful seed feast, dazzling red and ravishing dark iridescent colors flashing as their shifting movements catch intermittent sunlight.
The Red Wing Blackbirds showed up on the feeders today! I delight in the bright red epaulets with a yellow boarder on their wings. These birds are bringers of spring, foretelling of life reawakening, winter’s loosening grip. They trill from the trees and fly down en mass to devour the black oil seed and suet. The cats watch with twitching whiskers and taught muscles, as if one might fly into the house to be caught. I am pleased to sit and watch the red wing black bird’s antics as they dance in the yard around the feeders: perching, flapping, hopping, chirping, pecking, flying, always in motion. One more wonderful sign of spring.
Another grey snowy cold day. I fill the bird feeders; the Chick-a-Dees are on it before I finish and walk away. The always appreciate fresh bird seed! Later inside, I glance out the window while coming down the stairs as see a magnificent bright red male Cardinal swinging on the feeder, eating his fill. I love watching the Cardinals, their color a joyful contrast to all the grey. I try to take some pictures through the window, but they don’t come out they way I want so I give up and just stand in the window petting a cat and watching the bird show with delight. The female eventually shows herself as well, the Chick-a-Dees, and Juncos swarm around, flitting and twittering. I stand and watch until something spooks them and all the birds fly away, scattering in a zillion directions, disappearing into the bare tree branches. My paternal grandmother loved the Cardinals too, and I think I understand, my heart reaching through time, space, and memory.
For a variety of reasons, I like feeding the birds. The feeders hang on a shepherd’s hook in the front yard where we can see them from the big picture window. The cats love to sit on the window sill to watch the birds and squirrels all day long. We call it bird TV for cats. When birds or squirrels come up on the porch, the cats go nuts. Their whiskers stand at attention, their tails swish in agitation, and when really riled up they make a clicking squeaking noise. Often my husband or I will look out to see what has the furry felines so excited. Today, my husband was watching and called me over. There was a black squirrel! We have small red squirrels, and larger grey squirrels, but this is the first time I have seen a black squirrel up here in the mountains. I’ve seen them down near the River in Catskill, Saugerties, and Kingston. I guess they are up here now too! We all watched this squirrel as it raided the feeders, we watched the little birds like Chick-a-Dees protest, and we watched as a couple of Blue Jays reclaimed the feeders for the birds. Quite the wild kingdom out there on a cold winter day.
The other day I saw a shivering winter goldfinch on the feeder. Today his whole extended family and all their friends showed up too! Their little drab olive green bodies mobbing the black oil sunflower seed. They flitter and twitter, never sitting still even when perched. There must have been over 40 of them. It makes me smile when the winter flock shows up. All the fuss and muss and cheery noise. It’s like a part on the bird feeder. The cats sit in the window enraptured as well. I know they will stick around for a few days, then move on to somewhere else, but for now, they are here and they bring happiness on their wings.
Early this morning, I filled the black oil sunflower seed feeder before heading off to work. Upon arriving home, I noticed the snow covered walkway to the front stairs was completely trampled by tiny bird feet. I looked around, the whole area around the feeder, the paving stone at the bottom of the stairs, the path, and even a large portion of the driveway was covered in small bird prints. There were so many of them, tracks on top of tracks, that individual prints were completely indiscernible. Also, the black oil seed feeder is empty! The Goldfinch flock has definitely been here! When I finally came inside, my husband asked if I had seen all the bird tracks in the snow. He was amazed at how a group of small birds could make an area of snow look thoroughly trampled. Twenty or so tiny birds fluttering around non-stop for a few hours until the feeder is empty will do that. I imagine their twittering and rustling. I have not seen the flock yet, but they are obviously here.
This morning when looking out the front window to see the early birds on the feeder, there was a small drab dark olive colored bird with a wing bar. Oh cool! The winter Goldfinch flock is here!
Many years ago when I first saw a winter Goldfinch, I spent over an hour pouring through bird guides trying to figure out what it was. I unsatisfactorily settled on some sort of gnat-catcher because of its color and size. But many other factors did not fit, such as time of year and what it was eating. The mysterious birds stayed a few days and then left. Later in the spring, I saw more of them, but now they were in various stages of changing color into their summer plumage. Aha! Not gnat-catchers, but Goldfinches!
Every winter a flock shows up for a couple of days, cleans out the feeders every day they are here, then moves on to somewhere else. It is a joy to receive the annual visit of the winter Goldfinches. Spring is still a long way off, but these little birds know how to party in the bird world, even in sub-zero temperatures apparently. This morning there is only one little finch, but I suspect it will have plenty of friends very soon.