While I enjoy winter hikes, on days like today, with frigid air and wind-blown snow, a good novel often sounds more inviting. Fortunately, we have a feeder just outside our picture window and the harsh conditions bring a wide variety of birds to the edge of our family room.
Feeding groups of chickadees, titmice, white-breasted nuthatches and downy woodpeckers appear on a regular basis and northern cardinals, especially bright against the bleak, winter landscape, are more than welcome visitors. Now and then, an unruly mob of house sparrows and starlings invades the scene; though not overly fond of the sunflower seed, they are voracious scavengers and, while searching through the contents, scatter much of the seed for our ground feeders. The latter include juncos, white-throated sparrows, cardinals, mourning doves and an occasional fox sparrow. Among other visitors are red-bellied woodpeckers, house finches, purple finches, Carolina wrens, hairy woodpeckers and those erratic red-breasted nuthatches. Of course, gray and fox squirrels grab what they can and, toward dusk, an opossum may wander in to scour the site for fallen seed.
Amateur naturalists and beginning bird watchers are often surprised to discover the variety of birds that inhabit our residential areas. All it takes is a well-placed feeder and cold, snowy weather to provide an entertaining window on nature's diversity.