A cold west wind whistles through the trees, ruffling the feathers of small birds and tousling the hairs on a red squirrel's tail. A red and gray squirrel trade places beneath the feeder. The smaller red squirrel moves quickly, perhaps nervously, attentive to defending its space against the larger gray squirrel. Once it feels safe the red squirrel quietly feeds on sunflower seeds spilled by birds, its tail curved along its back.
While one or more gray squirrels visit the feeders every morning, I see the red squirrel only on the coldest of days, such as today. He spends most of the day at or near the feeders. Then at 3:00 pm he darts off to a nearby white pine, then scurries back toward the deeper woods, where I assume he'll spend the night curled up in a nest of leaves. The gray squirrels retreated to their tree nests of leaves and twigs earlier in the day.
A flock of two dozen goldfinches comes every morning and stays until early afternoon, by which time they've consumed most of the nijer and sunflower seeds in each feeder. They are more piggish than the squirrels. And they are rather dull in plumage in January. The squirrels are more colorful, in pelage and in antics. So I watch the squirrels not the birds from my home office window.
By late afternoon a handful of tufted titmice return, darting to and from the feeders along with chickadees. Most birds stay away on these windy days. Winter is with us in fits and starts this year. Yesterday morning a beautiful coating of fresh snow greeted us at daybreak, by day's end rain drops rippled in the pools of melted snow on the driveway. The animals seem to fare just fine with the ups and downs of cold and warm, snow and rain, wind and fog. My body takes longer to acclimate. Yesterday I soaked up the warm afternoon sun. Today's cold wind chills my bones. Time to do as the animals do. Get up and move around, some stretches, some exercises, take in some food. Oh, and fill the bird feeders (for the squirrels).