Birds | Lifestyle | seasons

Looking Out The Window On The Day After The Shortest Day

I wonder what the Mourning Dove says to the squirrel as they both dine at the seed buffet dropped from the feeders to their feet.  They both look around timidly, ready to dart to safety from threats real and imagined.  But they’ve learned to coexist with each other, knowing deep inside that this other species isn’t a threat to me.  Other birds – Chickadees, Jays, Cardinals – drop seeds to the ground as they sift for that special treat for themselves (or maybe as a nod to those below), and the ground feeders take over from there.  They seem to take care of each other even as they compete for the same food.  But they don’t look at each other as food and maybe when you’re both on the same link in the food chain that’s enough.

The coating of snow offers little in the way of camouflage for the parade of animals that move through the woods behind the house.  Protected land close to a stream is a refuge during hunting season, and a bridge between wild places the rest of the year.  Standing in front of the window, invisible to wildlife, that snow offers a spotlight on the animals that move through the woods.  This morning three deer moved quietly by, nuzzling the snow aside in search of acorns.  They’ve come to the right place and find plenty to nibble on before quietly moving on in a pattern of walk, nuzzle, eat, pop head up searching for threats, repeat.  A month ago there were ten deer walking this route, and I wonder if the cold or the hunters got the rest, or if these are just other transients moving down the wooded safe route.

The other day I watched fourteen turkey walk through the woods in a tactical formation the Marines would be proud of, each assessing threats, stopping to see what was available to eat, moving forward with precision.  I wondered how long it would be before they found the feeders, and of course I should have known they already knew about them, they were just approaching with full situational awareness.  In a few minutes the turkeys running point were scratching the snow and nibbling seed, soon others joined them, but never more than a half dozen at a time in one spot.  The rest occupied the perimeter, with a couple rotating in now and then.  Turkey pecking order was on display, and I wished I’d had a better camera with me than my iPhone offered. But there’s no coexisting with turkeys, and the squirrels and Mourning Doves steered clear until the turkeys moved on.

This is my version of New Hampshire, at the edge of the woods on the day after the shortest day of the year, as viewed from behind the window pane. The days are getting longer now, and I look forward to getting back outside on warm days, observing this world from outside. But I know it would be different when I’m out there, as some wildlife avoid humans. So this view offers something you don’t get outside, and today I appreciate the difference.

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