Birds coming and going and the wind makes the only sound
The feeders full with various seeds and suet are pushed backwards by the bullying wind.
At times, some of the sunflower seeds are unable to keep their balance against the gusts and are spilled onto the snow-covered ground.
The branches of pines, cedars, leafless shrubs and defenseless bushes are thrashing and bending against the unseen enemy — the constant wind.
But those same woody plants, as well as the hardened locusts, fragile-looking maples and any conifer with its sheltering foliage provide the refuge for the birds that regularly visit the life-sustaining feeders during a prolonged siege of hard weather.
Those birds flit back and forth between the crazy swings of the wind-whipped feeders and the nearby trees and shrubs.
Some, like the chickadee, move quickly to a single seed where they take it and in an instant return to what they see as safety away from the open ground. The juncos scour the ground for the smaller seeds they find irresistible. They seem to dance along atop the snow, dipping often enough to insure their needed ration of seeds is secured.
Cardinals float out of the evergreens and use both the feeders and the spilled seeds below to sustain their body temperatures and therefore their lives.
Finches don’t take the first movement or sound near them as a sure sign of trouble like the cardinals do. They hover on the feeders and devote time to seeing what the ground has to tempt their taste buds.
Woodpeckers are also hit-and-run type feeders. They particularly like the suet and hammer away at it with a staccato beat that has their heads acting like miniature jackhammers. Nuthatches are competition for the woodpeckers where the cakes of suet are concerned.
An occasional blue jay wades in with his broad-chested challenge to any other seed-chaser in the backyard area.
The birds often mind their own business and keep to the hunt. But if two or three male cardinals are seeking the same nourishment then squabbles take place and several red-colored blips are sent flashing back to cover while only one male cardinal does his dining.
Like many of nature’s animals, the birds seem to sense when snow, sleet or falling weather is imminent. The first flakes or ice pellets haven’t flown yet, but the feathered friends know it’s time to be feeding . . . before the ground is covered or the feeder is low on their fuel.
An inordinate number of robins are in the area this winter, but they scavenge for the tiny fruit still clinging to ornamental fruit trees like the pear and cherry. Crab apples keep some robins alive.
Once the snow stops flying, the birds may be quiet for some time. But should the ground remain covered, they will slowly return to feeders and the ground below that have sustained them before.
They are called “wild birds” . . . maybe because none of them are tame enough to carry on a conversation with humans. But since they are always bobbing around and are within yards of our houses and patios they don’t seem wild at all.
They are good neighbors . . . entertaining without ever knowing it . . . providing color and animation even in the drab days of off-white and gray of another muted winter season.