As February nears a close, I am reminded of being sure the bluebird houses are clean and ready for the March homesteaders. So much snow blanketing our backyard makes for a difficult hike up to the bluebird house on its cedar post beside the little meadow . I spotted my first bluebird down the road at Howard’s farm yesterday. A brilliant flash of bright blue wings caught my eye. Spring must be right around the corner…or in this case, right down the road.
I guess I would list bluebirds as among my very favorite birds. Not only beautiful and graceful as they seem to glide across the backyard, they have a personality that attracts me. Year after year the bluebird pair returns to our yard. Old friends, perhaps… who think our property is as inviting as we do. How faithful they are, travelling back and forth with food for the babies chirping inside the box. The bluebird will land on the trellis or fence posts before darting off to swoop down into the meadow grass for a tasty morsel to share. These lovely creatures brighten our yard, choosing our familiar box once again, tending to their demanding families, calling out with their distinctive hoarse little voice, and allowing us the thrill of seeing their beautiful vibrant blue selves. One year I was sitting on the back deck when the babies chose to take their first flight. What a thrill to see them lined up along the fence, taking in the vast meadow world for the first time. One little one remained for last, but then even he, too, was flying and trying his wings above the garden. What a relief for the weary parents…who would pluckily and optimistically return for a second batch of young later that summer. In dark December we will sometimes be surprised by the sight of five or six bluebirds flying out of the box. A wintering family of bluebirds perhaps, keeping warm together in their familiar home.
Today, I slowed down the car and looked for the cedar waxwings down the road near the Congregational Church. Every year at Chicken Barbecue time at the Church, the third week in February, the row of ten or so crab apple trees that line the parking lot are alive with their joyful and frenetic antics. Comically they hang from the branches, side by side with the local robins, almost drunk on the dried red crab apples. Such a treat, they must think, as they make their journey north, to have so nutritious and delicious a meal. Beautiful looking creatures, having a greyish back and wings with a yellowish breast and tuft of feathers rising from their foreheads, they are marked with distinctive slashes of black color near their eyes.
Chicken Barbecue time is a yearly happening here in town. The outside barbecue pit near the back of the church building is surrounded by the men in charge of this task. The aroma of roasting chicken as it sizzles and crisps on the grill is wonderful. Are the cedar waxwings intimidated by this? No, they are enjoying their feast just as much as we who arrive to pick up our dinners will.
Last summer a mystery bird took over the bluebird house after it had been left empty in early September. We came upon this bird when we were walking Violet one evening. Since it was her first month with us, we walked her on a leash around the perimeter of the property near the little meadow to train her. As we walked right in front of the birdhouse, a little head popped out, staring right into the beam of the flashlight. She didn’t fly away, didn’t shy away. Just stared at us. Night after night the little bird would be there, peeping her tiny head out the hole. The mystery bird who seemed unafraid of any passers-by and greeted us every evening on our walk.
As night falls on this rainy February evening, I look forward to the return of these birds. But I am cheered by our homey favorites who appear at our bird feeder each day–the titmouses, the nuthatches, and especially our cheerful chickadees. We are blessed to have so many little creatures on our property. Violet is especially happy to watch for squirrels who enjoy a meal beneath our window and sometimes send vast amounts of seeds tumbling onto the ground as they swing on the feeder. Her hunting instincts surfacing, Violet stands anxiously on the chair’s arm, pointing through the nearby glass, grateful to go out and bound over the snow in futile pursuit of these fat and fluffy intruders.