Winter is springing, already

A lone mockingbird daily stops to say hello.So far, the snowthrower is safely near the shed door. I suppose I should bring it out and see whether it will start. I gave my snowshoes to my nephew for Christmas. It’s weird in the middle of January to be thinking Spring! already, two months in advance.

A mockingbird has been hanging around our front window nearly all winter. Once a day, she would knock on the glass, though I never figured out, other than my attention, she wanted. My chair sits facing mostly away from the window, and when I turned around, she would fly away.

She disappeared about a week ago; maybe she decided to stop beating her head against our front window. Luckily, I was able to get a couple of pictures with the back camera of my cellphone.

She has been replaced by a small flock of doves and a large flock of European starlings, the latter crowded around the suet blocks we have hanging near the back deck. There are about 20 starlings, taking advantage of a break in the snowy rain to stock up on energy for the next stage of their trip to wherever they are going.

There were 10 Mourning doves yesterday. Only a couple today, but I suspect the others are not far off. On the other hand, we typically have only two, sometimes three, pairs that hang around for the summer. They nest in the nearby woods, presumably to rear their new families in nests I’ve never found.

The one population that is here year-round is the House sparrow clan. They are everywhere, hundreds of them, including dug in behind the siding on the north side of our home.

They are viciously territorial, and do not countenance immigrants. I watched one day as a House sparrow invaded a bluebird nest and, one by one, removed the eggs, taking them to the ground and placing them, punctured and emptied, next to each other a few yards from the nest.

Clearly, the sparrow was delivering a message, neatly placing the destroyed eggs instead of simply tossing them out of the nest.

Birds are amazing critters. A Red-tailed hawk will perch, watching for voles and inattentive squirrels, and paying no attention to me as I roll by in my car, watching it watch me. The raptor seem absolutely intent on an impending meal.

Then I stop the car. Two hundred yards from where I sit watching the bird, it launches and moves farther away, as though it knows the effective range of my camera lens.

Often I see them in pairs. It turns out humans are not the sole species subscribing to monogamy – or at least close. Red-tails mate for life. Canada geese also. Mallards, on the other hand –at least the drakes – subscribe to a more “open” arrangement. Though technically, they marry for life, if an attractive lady happens along, he is up for a little recreation.

Some birds are wicked smart. Some crows, for instance, have shown adeptness at shaping sticks and using them to pry grubs out of their hidey-holes. Using tools, it turns out, is not a uniquely human ability.

And squirrels in our backyard have knocked on the porch door when the ground is covered and the resident squirrel feeder has not automatically tossed a few handfuls of peanuts for the hungry rodents.

On the other hand, I came across a Mute swan and a Canada goose nearly frozen into Willoughby Run. They swam back and forth in an opening too small to allow takeoff.

I bet they’ll be glad when the weather – and the water – warms.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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