Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter Birds

I know he is there. I can feel his keen marble eye, staring, watching every move that I make. Just over my shoulder, on the other side of the windowglass, from his perch on the blue glass feeder. I wonder what he makes of me. Does he see me as his benefactress, for indeed, with my bags and bags of sunflower seeds at the ready, through every season of the year, that is certainly what I am. Or instead, am I just a poor featherless creature trapped inside a rather large cage, a curiosity to be pitied for my obvious lack of sufficient avian qualities.

Birds have always fascinated me. Each as delicate as an orchid, as wild as an ocelot. How I hate to see them in cages. When I was little I used to traipse off by myself quite a bit, a fact which doubtless caused my parents no small amount of consternation. Often, I would head down the lane to a neighbor who had what I considered to be the remarkable good fortune to have a pen full of chickens smack in their back garden. Slipping away after breakfast to squat down by their coop, I would hold one-sided conversations with those iridescent creatures for hours. My father followed me once on my rounds to the chicken coop and snapped photographic evidence of one of my many visits.

If you think about it for a moment, birds have been present every day of our lives. They are our soundtracks, our garden accessories. They follow us to the seashore, flit around us on the mountain pathway. The scarlet Cardinal who brings such colour to the naked trees on the greyest winter day. The Great Horned Owls who sit in the oak tree outside our bedroom and call to each other in deep, haunting voices at midnight. The Robins who line up in the rose bush each summer afternoon around two, politely taking turns to bathe in the stone bird bath. The cheerful Purple Finches who return every year to nest in the front porch ferns, singing arias of glee all the long day long. I open the windows to hear them.

The Canada Geese who fly in perfect formation over my head on a golden autumn morning, spreading wonder in their wake.

The Pileated Woodpecker who every now and then chooses our very own garden as a place to astonish those lucky enough to catch just one tiny glimpse of his glory.

I am appreciative of their presence every single day, but never more so than in winter.

The black and white world of February desperately needs the flash of their colour, the lilt of their song.

Winter Scene

by A. R. Ammons

There is now not a single

leaf on the cherry tree:

except when the jay

plummets in, lights, and,

in pure clarity, squalls:

then every branch

quivers and

breaks out in blue leaves.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed and related to your post about the "Winter Birds". I am surrounded by winter birds and get so much enjoyment from being able to observe, photograph, draw and paint the birds that I see daily. You painted such a beautiful picture of them with words! Love the photo of you as a child communicating with the chickens!

  2. I love the photo of you as a little girl. One day if we ever meet, ask me to tell you about the birds when they quit their song.

  3. Beautiful post Pamela, as always. The winter birds are such a blessing. We are not far enough south to have the colourful birds, but the little grey friends and the quail and nutcrackers, occasional hawk, or eagle, are enough to keep us mindful of their presence and the need to keep their little tummies full.

  4. This is a beautiful post, I really love how you assimilate birds to soundtracks, they truly are.

  5. I so admire chickadees for their courage to brave Minnesota winters! They may not be colorful but they are loyal and sweet. That photo of you checking out the chickens is absolutely adorable. I'm so happy you made it through childhood and into adulthood with your wonder of the natural world intact and your imagination all the more sharp!

  6. Oh your blog is absolutely charming. So original. thanks so much for your visit to Riviera Dogs - please tell Edward he is one very handsome dog, although I'm sure he knows that!

  7. You help me love birds even more :) They are with us all the time in some way.


  8. I shall never look at birds with the same indifferent eyes after reading your post. Beautiful!

  9. I got caught too, but I was INSIDE the chicken coop eating their feed.

  10. Dear Pamela, Your father's picture of you as a child talking to the neighbour's hens is magical. How wonderful that one has these archives to look back on.

    The birds you describe are indeed such a welcome sight especially, as you say, in winter. You are very fortunate to have such a wide range of birds visiting your garden.

  11. Such a sweet photo of you Pamela :)
    I adore birds too and like you hate to see them in cages.
    Birdsong is the best music of all. x

  12. What a lovely picture. Do you sometimes find Edward and Apple quizically staring at birds in the trees?

  13. I love birds and I love all that you share
    Much love and many blessings
    Love Jeanne

  14. What a cute photo of you talking to the chickens!

  15. Oh, I LOVE this post, Pamela! I feel just the same way about birds. My husband and I go bird watching a lot, binoculars and guidebooks in hand, and I think I love this most in wintertime and early spring when the birds are often the one bit of cheer in the coldest, barest days of the year. In fact, we're going out this afternoon. And on Valentine's Day we're doing the Great Backyard Bird count. Can't wait!

    I love how you ponder about what the bird must think of you in your big cage. I often wonder this, too!

    Thanks for a lovely post! xo Gigi

  16. I agree about birds, Pamela. This week we have had a flock of long tailed tits at our bird table each day - they are a delight.

  17. It's a certainty, that nature finds a way to brighten up a dull day. But sometimes, we need to reacquaint ourselves with subtlety, in order to appreciate it.

  18. At my (across the street) neighbor's funeral the pastor spoke of all her birds.

    Ha, they were my birds. Merely landing in her garden.

    Yes, I'm rather matriarchal about my birds.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  19. My very favourite time of the day is before the sun rises and the garden is full of bird song - wrens and blackbirds make my heart sing! Leigh

  20. I think the birds know me i toss food to them all winter and they watch me fill the feeder, They must, as they are there in a heart beat.
    love that dog!

  21. Dear Pamela,
    I think that my husband spends more money on food for the birds than we do for ourselves !! There are fat balls, seeds and every nut imaginable. He really looks after them. I bought him a bird bath for Christmas !! .... and he goes out and breaks the ice on it so that the birds can find the water . We do get some lovely birds in the garden because he looks after them so well. XXXX

  22. I always feel a sense of calm and peace when I read your blog, that I hate to leave. How beautiful that you remind us how important birds are to our everyday lives. I adore the photo of you, incredibly sweet. My husband & I were pointing out the bird the other day as they sat in huge numbers on power lines. Graham was saying how steady they are and as humans we could never stand such as that without falling on our noses.

    Thank you Pamela for your well appreciated advice regarding my moving situation. It really does help. Great weekend to you xx

  23. My mother would adore your beautiful bird image!!

  24. Wish I did see more birds, but since I live in the city...
    Also, your lovebird box in the side bar is beautiful!

  25. I love watching the birds in my garden, eating all the goodies I put out for them. They are so beautiful and delicate! suzie xxx

  26. I love watching the beautiful cardinals in the pine tree right outside my front door. The red against the green is stunning-like a gorgeous red winter cloak.

  27. Love thinking of the birds as "our garden accessories." Thanks for that view!

  28. What a lovely pic of you - so glad your father caught you in that little curious girl pose!

    Pileated Woodpeckers are gorgeous - we are visited by a beauty every now and then.

    Pamela - yesterday at 2:30 pm I picked Jasmin up from school and we went to see An Education! Hunkered down with popcorn, and the only ones in the theatre, we so enjoyed it. Fabulous story and photography, definitely memories of the '60's in the UK for me. Carey is a wonderful actress, as were the entire cast. Jasmin loved it and later we discussed the ending especially, and of course what happened prior (don't want to give anything away to others who have yet to see it!). Although J is only 13, she is very mature and I know this story reinforced so much of what we've discussed regarding the importance of a university education......and how to fend off those terrible boys who can easily "throw a spanner in the works" as we say in England!!!!

    Thanks for telling nme about the movie - we loved it!

  29. And suddenly, just in the past week, the birds are busier. Spring is coming!

  30. What a wonderful photograph to have in your collection. The birds in your garden sound so wonderful and colourful. I, too love watching birds in the garden and feed them every day - this winter we have had some unusual ones visit, too:)

  31. As a child,living in Australia, we always had chickens...your picture looks exactly like the run we had!
    They we as faithful as a dog, they would follow us everywhere. My dad had a favorite one called Tinus (we're Dutch... ;) and they we crazy about eachother! Your story and picture brought back some loving memories! Thank you for sharing!


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