Off to the east, there is a wedge of sky that holds soft blue, creamy white and that mellow, cottony winter pink of sunrise. Outlined by roof edges and bare-limbed trees, the space is the first area in which to see the new day.
To hear the new day, one must be willing to brave the cold-still air and sit outside wrapped in blankets of dark clothing so as to blend in with the tangled fence row. There, ever-so-slight peeps of cardinals and sparrows can be heard if one holds one’s breathe. Life seems suspended in time.
As the light increases in the wedge of sky, more sounds are apparent as feathered creatures wake to empty stomachs and the need for quick energy. Moving inside, we give way to their need to come out of hiding. While we enjoy hot coffee, they enjoy seeds and suet.
They have a hierarchy or pecking order for the first meal. Juncos and cardinals are first and eat off the ground under the feeder. With charcoal-grey coats, the juncos blend in well and surprisingly so do the red cardinals. Mourning doves come in under cover of pre-dawn, wary of a certain cooper’s hawk which makes a regular fly-through on frigid mornings. He needs quick energy too. A dozen gray doves keep to flower bed edges, ready to leap for cover if the hawk’s large, dark shadow appears.
White-throated sparrows, chestnut-capped chipping sparrows, brown stickpin song sparrows, and the ever present house sparrows are next to show up. They too prefer the ground, although the crowds of house sparrows will inundate the feeder and shuffle seeds off the edge.
As sunlight streams across the fence into the expanse between trees and feeder a large, red-capped woodpecker swoops in. Although his cap is red, he is a red-bellied woodpecker. He is keen for the peanuts mixed in with the seeds. He takes his turn and as he flies off to eat in the safety of a tree, his mate takes her turn.
Back on the suet feeder, downy woodpeckers take turns. They don’t mind the Carolina wren eating on the other side of the wire cage that holds the suet block. When it is this cold out, they are tolerant of each other’s presence. Perhaps they have a community sense of survival. Inside we have a family sense of survival beginning with our own breakfast.
Much can be said for a hot bowl of long-cooked, creamy oats. All sorts of additions make it a tough choice for which will do the day justice. Opting for cinnamon and walnuts, we feel like the birds look-grateful for sustenance on this frigid day.
One week later, the same wedge of sky is a brilliant spring-like pink with thin yellow shafts of first sunlight. To see and hear this day one could hardly imagine that it is still January. Birds, too, feel the warmer air moving in for the first time since November. Songs replace squeaks of hunger. The day will prove to be another yo-yo turn of weather events. Sixty degrees is not hot oatmeal weather. Cold, overnight oats and fruit will do.
Rain is in the mix. Keeping birds and humans alike hold-up under cover, high winds sweep in over the land. Turbulent air moves over our valley and the rest of Ohio bringing an aching for the real warmth of spring.
Another few days and the cold returns. Icy conditions bring much activity to a standstill. But the birds still need to feed. Slip-sliding over the feeder roof, bigger ones flutter into piled up seeds. On the ground, dozens mill about, scratching up seeds caught in the icy mix. Their small faces look as forlorn as we feel. It’s back to hot oatmeal and survival.
Each morning we look to the wedge of sky, wondering what it will hold as the day begins. Soft muted tones or bold, bright light? Will there be sounds of hunger or songs of delight? Only January knows.
Cold Overnight Oatmeal
- ½ cup raw oats
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup yogurt
- ½ cup fresh or canned fruit, diced
Quaker Oats Baked Oatmeal
- 2 cups Quaker old-fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup granulated
- 3 1/3 cups milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla
- 1/3 cup brown sugar