Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's tough out there

Here in the upper southeast, we don't suffer from the cold like the Midwest, for example, but it's still hard on the wildlife. Our temperatures get into the low 30's / upper 20's at night, and only up to the high 40's during the day. (I know, to some of you that sounds like Hawaii!)

The birds are finding shelter wherever they can. When I walk out to the mailbox in the afternoon I provoke a flurry of brown thrushes bursting from the holly bushes in front of my house. They flit out into the trees and wait for me to go back in so that they can snuggle down on the bottom branches of the bushes out of the wind. The birds find any sheltered spot that is accessible, but most of the bushes are bare and offer scant protection. Two sparrows had even settled into the silk flower arrangement in the basket hanging on the wall outside my back door. Proximity to humans was the lesser of the two evils.

I haven't seen a chipmunk for weeks. Probably, they're all snug in a burrow somewhere (I haven't checked under the house for a while - that becomes Chipmunktown every winter, no matter how hard I try to seal up access). Only a few squirrels are out foraging; one was industriously sorting through the mulch under my oak tree yesterday, to see if he or anyone else had buried more acorns there.

All this gets me thinking about the bird feeding. I had stopped for a while during migrations season, and then the presence of two local hawks worried me. I was afraid that I would lure the poor birds into a trap. But now I feel that we must start feeding again. Berries and seeds are mostly depleted on the bushes in my yard; probably it's the same everywhere.

And, the cat and I miss them. It was always so cheerful to sit in my den every morning reading the news online and watching the activity in the dogwood trees, while my cat peered from behind the curtains and did the "fearsome-stalking-kitty" routine. I'll keep an eye out for the hawks. I wish they'd go back to Lookout Mountain or somewhere - what are they doing in a subdivision, anyway?

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