Home with a cold

For the past few days, I have had a cold, and the advice to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and stay warm has given me an

excuse to relax in a big comfy chair, read, and look out the window.

At six o’clock this morning, I was in our darkened living room with my tea and toast, stretched out in the big recliner by the window, looking out at the moonlit backyard and lake. The moon shone through a lattice of bare branches, and out in the yard deciduous trees cast their graceful shadows on the snow-covered lawn. A few nights ago, the moon was full, but even with part of its lower right edge missing it was still bright. I turned on the lamp beside my chair and started to read a book until I realized the moonlight was being replaced by the dawn. By 20 minutes after seven, a soft pink

glow bathed the ice and snow, and fluffy pink clouds floated in the western sky. Behind me, the eastern sky was pale blue, with patches of brightly lit apricot colored clouds. A minute later, the light changed and all that subtle beauty vanished. Every season has its unique beauty, but mornings like this one are seen only in winter.

Now it is lunchtime, and I’m sitting in front of another window with another mug of tea, a sandwich, and binoculars, watching birds at the feeders. Today, I have a double excuse for appearing to do nothing: my lingering cold and Project FeederWatch. Every week in the winter, I keep track of the birds at our feeders and report my findings to a citizen science project at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. All over North America feeder watchers record bird activity on two consecutive days each week. Results can be found at www.feederwatch.org. It’s easy to do, since I can choose which days to watch and how long to watch each day. I often do it in the morning, but today I am eating my lunch and watching the feeders.

Bird activity has been slow so far, but finally a chickadee shows up, takes a seed, and leaves. A male hairy woodpecker lands on the suet feeder, jabs aggressively at the suet a couple of times until he dislodges a small chunk, then flies away with it to the maple tree. Unfortunately, most of the wildlife activity under the feeders today involves squirrels. The smaller more aggressive reds chase away the larger grays, and claim any seeds that fall from the bird feeder as their own. The lack of bird activity is slightly discouraging, but last winter, 15,699 people participated in Project FeederWatch, reporting a total of 5,855,881 birds, so I remind myself that a low count from my feeders any particular week is hardly going to sink the project. Soon, however, things pick up as a second male hairy woodpecker arrives. There is a brief chase in the upper branches of the maple tree, and both woodpeckers fly away. More chickadees come to the feeder, and a red-breasted nuthatch lands on the suet. A couple of goldfinches park themselves on the perches of the tube feeder, not eating, and not letting the chickadees land there. A brown creeper works its way up the trunk of the maple.

When activity at the feeder quiets down again, I go to a different window and look out to the backyard, where I am surprised to see a flock of 27 wild turkeys. For the next half hour, I watch as they strut, or walk with heads near the ground, or hop with open wings. Compared to the little birds I have been watching at the feeders, the turkeys look enormous. They peck at the lawn, overturn leaves on the forest floor, and pick up bits of gravel from the driveway. In the bright sunlight their metallic feathers shine magnificently, showing rust, pink, red, copper, green, and brown. A few have red on the head, and at least one has blue. Many have long tufts of feathers on the breast.

The day is only half over, and already I have seen so many interesting things. Maybe staying home with a cold isn

’t so bad after all.

Jean Preis resides in Bridgton.

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