Solstice

2004 December 21
by David J. Ringer

GREENE CO., MO. — Suddenly, ten minutes past solstice, one bluebird started chattering, breaking nature’s silence. Two bluebirds answered the call, and juncos whirred into action. One landed right at my feet. A cardinal teeked insistently from the neighbor’s shrub, and before long robins began their worried cheeps from the trees in the woods behind us.

The faint glow in the east could not warm the frigid morning. My fingers burned. Breathing on them helped a little. As the sky slowly lightened, gray smudgy clouds burst into pink flame. Silhouetted doves and blackbirds slipped through the air high above, calling occasionally, or whistling with their wings. They seemed so … purposeful.

I have no idea where I’ll be this time next year. I’m flying hard and fast right now, straight toward May. But then? I don’t know. Do the grackles know where they’re going? When you cross the horizon, do you lose everything, or do you gain a whole new world?

Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee. Reassuring, familiar. Another chickadee appeared, and the pair squeaked and tittered together, quivering with excitement. Light steadily increased, and others began dropping in to the feeders — goldfinches, nuthatches, titmice. A tiny creeper inspected the tree trunks. Seeeee. Timid creature. And the red-belly is the king. He swoops toward the feeder, and everyone else scatters. His crown is bright, and his laugh is hearty.

Then the neighbor and her beagle came out of the garage. “Not on my bush! Not on my bush!” she griped. I slipped around the corner of the house, hoping not to be seen. Don’t want people thinking you’re weird.

Later, I drove up to Fellows Lake. Seven goldeneyes rested on the water, not too far from shore. Two were males. They started to get all worked up, swimming alongside each other, stretching out their necks as if to see whose was longer. They threw their heads back onto their backs and opened their stubby bills. A moment later, their nasal, raspy buzzes reached me over the water. They repeated the ritual over and over, but the brown-headed females just seemed bored. It was, after all, the first day of winter.

A lone Bonaparte’s Gull drifted lightly over the lake, then plunged down into the water after some tasty morsel. An eagle soared high above, wings flat and still. A Red-headed Woodpecker tried to escape between the trees, but flashing white wings betrayed it. Bluebirds, chickadees, red-bellies, and juncos feasted on sumac fruits. A White-throated Sparrow hopped up in the undergrowth, showing off its brilliant colors. Canada Geese called from far across the water.

Related posts:

  1. Birding on the winter solstice
  2. Solstice means beginnings
  3. Solstice dawn
  4. Storm-bird hunt
  5. The day that felt like two
3 Responses
  1. Sunoose permalink
    April 2, 2005

    Wow. . .that gives such a beautiful feeling. . .it feels as though I’m actually there with you, watching all those birds!

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