Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15: Shadows on the Snow

As I sat at my desk writing this morning, my attention was diverted by something small darting back and forth outside the window. It took me awhile to figure out what it was, because it was moving fast, and, it turns out, wasn't truly tangible. I was seeing shadows on the snow of a nuthatch moving quickly and with agility among the boughs of a tree hanging over the back yard.

As I watched more intentionally, more shadows flickered across the snow. A flock of bright-throated goldfinches passed through, then a handful of chickadees flew back and forth from the bird feeder on the other side of the house. A chickadee landed right in front of me on the porch rail outside my office window and then flew up to grab something off the gutter--some frozen insect carcass, perhaps? A pair of blue jays made their presence known. Then a downy woodpecker flew in to explore a tree trunk. A small flock of starlings, a species I've never seen in our yard before, cast large shadows as they perched for a moment in our big maple tree. All this activity happened in the space of about half an hour. As the sunlight has raised the air temperature, the birds have clearly been making the most of their daylight time.

Not long after, I even had the privilege of watching a pair of crows chase a red-tailed hawk through the air space above my yard. Imagine how much I'd have missed if I'd never bothered to look up when those shadows first caught my eye.

Shadows on the snow:
a moment's activity,
a flurry of birds.

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