Sunday, March 2, 2014


Of the fifteen winters I have lived here in my little corner of the Flint Hills, this has been the most extreme one. (It is the counterbalance to the winter-that-never-was a few years ago, when it never got below freezing the entire winter.) I provide food for the wild birds every winter. I do this to help the declining bird populations and because I greatly enjoy watching the variety of song birds and their peaceful sharing of a steady food supply. Unfortunately, the trees where the feeders hang are too far from the house for me to have the ring-side seat I enjoyed at the old house. The larger birds I can still recognize, but the little guys are just too far away for me to identify, except the juncos.

The juncos are easy to recognize because they are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Even when the cardinals, blue jays and gold finches have exhausted the feeders, the juncos are still scratching through the remains and finding the last little millet seed or bit of corn. All the birds scatter into the safety of the mature trees when I arrive with the buckets of seeds, but the juncos are the last to take flight. They only rise into the tops of the two redbud trees, safely out of my reach, but close enough so they can descend immediately when I walk away. This winter, they are even more reluctant to waste energy scattering for the big trees when they know I present no threat to them.

While I shake the feeders empty and refill the little nyger seed dispenser for the gold finches, the juncos patiently wait, whistling and making a pleasant musical twittering among themselves. One little guy has decided he does not even need to fly to the top of the tree, but remains just a branch or two out of my reach. Just like chickens, there are one or two birds smarter and braver than the others, who will avail themselves of every opportunity to get to the food first. If winter lasts long enough, I know I could coax the little junco to land on my hand and eat the seeds offered. That is, I COULD if Jake would stay the hell back! He already knows he is not supposed to follow me to the bird feeders because he hoovers up the seeds that fall to the ground. Each time I see the brave little junco, I put a few seeds in the palm of my gloved hand, and hold it up toward the bird. I mentally quiet my thoughts and consciously extend the energy of invitation toward the little bird. The instant I extend the mental invitation, Jake apparently feels it too and comes directly to me. The junco immediately flies higher into the tree, and I am so irritated at that dog that it ruins the chances of trying again with the little bird. Bad dog!

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