Monday, February 7, 2011

Midwinter Distraction

I ease into my reading chair determined to edit a recently completed chapter of my manuscript, and hesitate. Pages drop to my lap as I glimpse movement outside the sliding door. A handful of Juncos, little birds that look like eggs dipped in artist's ink with slate gray back and head and breast sharply contrasting a white belly, flash their white outer tail feathers as they flit from the pines at the tree line to dine at my feeders.

My second floor balcony teems with life year round. While the tangles of plants sleep, the bird feeders remain lively. Shades of gray blend with the misty winter sky. A Seagull flies in the distance—a reminder of the nearby Chesapeake Bay.

With a call of chick-a-dee-dee-dee, a couple of Carolina Chickadees sporting black cap and bib and white cheeks flick in, grab a sunflower seed, and head for the trees. A loud peter-peter-peter signals the arrival of a couple of Tufted Titmice. They also take a seed to dine-out.

Small Field Sparrows and their larger cousins, speckled brown Song Sparrows, dine-in at the balcony buffet. A Red-breasted Nuthatch arrives with a flash of its russet belly. Lady Cardinal joins the activity only to be chased away by her brilliant red lord. My lips curl into a smile at the blaze of color.

The call and arrival of a Blue Jay scatters the smaller birds. The Jay dines at a railing feeder, nothing more than the nailed-down plastic lids of leftovers from our favorite Italian restaurant. After he leaves only silence remains.

Much later, I raise my gaze. It's not the crafted scene on the page in my hand that has me holding my breath but a small hawk perched on the balcony railing. The slightest movement on my part sends the predator on its way. I release the air from my lungs. My favorite guests can once again visit in safety.

Dawn Marie Hamilton

12 comments:

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I had to share your post with my hubby. He has a pack of hummingbirds that he calls friends and they seem to appreciate him as well. When the feeders dry up they never hesitate to dive bomb at his head to let him know they are hunger. We have to laugh because we have one we call Mafia. He sits on a branch and watches his feeder and attacks anyone brave enough to take a drink. Ken has spread the feeders around the house so they don't have to share too much with Mafia. They are so colorful and so much fun to watch. He also has feeders with suet for the other birds. Our only trouble is keeping the bears away from the suet and the bluejays away from the hummingbird food.

Fun post. You described them so beauitfully.

Jill James said...

I love bird-watching. I wish I knew all the names. When my son was a cub scout we had a book with pictures. It was catalogued by color. If a bird was mostly brown, you turned to the brown section. It was simple and really cool to use.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Thanks for stopping by, Paisley. Here, in Southern Maryland, we only have hummers part of the year. In April, I watch one of those websites that track the migration of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and when I see they've passed my area, I put out the nector feeder. You gave me a good chuckle. Last year we had a Mafioso also.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

A bird book by color is a great idea, Jill. I have a wildflower book along those lines. We have a North American Bird Book we use when we travel, but you have to be able to guess the species name or spend time thumbing through the pages. Thanks for visiting.

L.A. Lopez said...

I love late winter suprises. Here in Cali, we're having 75% weather which brings out the robins, and jays...I love to see the birds even with the leaveless trees, and gray skys. It's a reminder of life.

Joanne said...

My neighborhood in South Carolina has a bird-watching club. I've thought many times to join. Very thoughtful post to share.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Loved the post! I wish I had the time to bird watch! But sometimes it's important to try to make the time in our busy schedules, and who knows, if nothing else, it makes a wonderful post!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Lee, Joanne & Terry, Thanks for dropping in. I had hoped my post would make everyone smile. :)

Kristal Lee said...

Lovely, Dawn. I felt as if I were watching with you. We don't have many birds in my community because of the hawks. Occasionally we see deer or wild turkey. The only constant visitor we have is an armadillo who's moved into our hedges. Despite the fur-babies barking insistence that he find other lodgings, the critter seems determined to stay.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Very cool, Kristal. I think Armadillos are just the cutest, ugly creatures. One of the times we were camping in Ocala, we had one foraging near our tent every evening. I loved seeing it. Thanks for visiting!

Clarissa Southwick said...

I would never get any writing done if I wrote near the window. Here, it's mostly the hawks and the quail that keep my attention. I also waste a lot of time staring at the aquarium. Great post :)

Pat McDermott said...

We have few birds her in New Hampshire at the moment. Your post was a cheery reminder of what's coming. We host swarms of red-winged blackbirds from spring to fall and will have goldfinches, cardinals, bluebirds, robins, hummingbirds, and on and on. The cats will wake up for a few extra minutes every day, and I will love the birdsong. Lovely descriptions, Dawn. I'm sure you could work them into one of your stories!