Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Here we are again in our seasonal dana practice, the feeding of wild things great and small who live on the Two Hundred Acre in winter and light up our days when most other creatures have either flown south or gone into hibernation.
In February, we are often met right on our threshold by several hungry chickadees, a nuthatch or three and a few noisy woodpeckers. The feeders and suet receptacles along the trail into the deep woods are empty, and our visitors wait eagerly for their daily bread and banquet to be replenished.
Off we go, all of us together, two-leggeds carrying suet, niger, millet and sunflower seed, Spencer in the lead and cavorting through the deep snow like a dolphin, chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches dancing from branch to branch behind and chattering happily. The chickadees leave sunflower husks behind them like crumbs as they follow us into the deep woods. A few ravens circling overhead announce our too slow (for the birds anyway) progress up the trail and through the trees.
In the wild blue winter woods, small details dance in place and beg to be noticed by intrepid wanderers in such wooded places. Birch conks and milkweed pods wear caps of snow, and solitary leaves dangle in place on fragile strands of spider silk from last summer's webs. Rocks glisten, and puddles in the hollows are outlined in ice crystals. There isn't a single noshable berry to be seen anywhere on tree or thorn or shrub, though a flash of scarlet here and there in the snow would be most welcome.
Every detail seems to stand out in winter, and I understand why Freeman Patterson calls it his favorite time for photography in the wilds. In the vast scheme of untamed places are a thousand and one small treasures inviting our attention.
In my dreams I am skiing through the high woods, and every step is attended by wind and birds and lightly falling snow.