Redpolll Watercolor by Sally Wickham © 2013
As January draws to a close, I can feel the patterns of the dark and cold season settling in on me. Today, snow has fallen softly and steadily all day. The town snow plow went roaring and scraping by. The UPS guy called to say that he couldn’t make it up the hill. The mail man made it but I agreed that it was okay to deliver the package tomorrow. Each day is new but the repetition of winter activities duplicating day after day could easily become ennui. My winter schedule, however, fits me well; up late in the morning, breakfast of steel cut oats with fruit and nuts; feed and water the hens, collect the eggs; bring in wood; sweep the snow and wood crumbs off the porch; go for a ski, a walk or a snowshoe depending on the conditions, and oh, yes, feed the wild birds.
Every year I stock my feeders with black oil sunflower seeds in order to keep the chickadees, finches and blue jays near the house. Last winter followed an incredible season for wild apples and Bohemian Waxwings came in large numbers. They were not interested in sunflower seeds but scattered under the apple trees to devour the rotting harvest. The mast year for apples was followed by a meager crop and it was disappointing to realize that the roving waxwings would not grace our backyard this year.
|A charm of Common Redpolls|
But then, erratic migrants from the arctic, the Common Redpolls appeared. They arrived in a swarm-- frosty finch-like birds that seemed to be everywhere. Whenever I open the door, it signals a mass exodus into the apple and the birch trees which quiver with their chirping.
This was a new bird that I had not seen here before. At first I thought they were finches, but no, their streakiness reminded me more of sparrows. Their bills are small and pointed and there is a black spot on the necks. I saw the red spot on the heads of all the birds. Some of the group (the males) have streaks of red on their breasts. They were definitely Redpolls.
I guess that is one of the things I like best about the season of snow and dark and cold. During the peaceful monotony of winter days in Vermont, there are always surprises like the irregular winter visitors—the Redpolls—who descend into my backyard in Vermont to escape the colder climes of the arctic.
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I love the way that Neltjie Blanchan describes the arrival of the Redpolls and it is included here for your enjoyment. LL
Quote from BIRD NEIGHBORS. An introductory acquaintance with one hundred and fifty birds commonly found in the gardens, meadows, and woods about our homes. By Neltjie Blanchan New York, Doubleday, Page & Co. 1902 pp222-223.