Below is the audio version of this story. It’s just under 3 minutes long.
The birds are busy feeding for indeed they are feeding for their lives. Blizzard feed. A commanding chorus of red-winged blackbirds are arranged like a cloud in the old gothic elm in front of the farmhouse. From the cloud– trills, buzzes, and thin seductive whistles. Three pipes of a low noted flute followed by a lusty buzz is the most majestic of the blackbird sounds. Punctuating this chorus is an incessant chip, chip, chip, chip. The blackbirds perform not for us, but somehow the raucous orchestra bursts through our glass windows and fills the living room with sound.
When the blackbirds descend onto the platform feeders, the platforms swing and wildly. Older males flick their bright red epaulets and the younger males keep their wings in close.
Mostly, posturing is minimal, because everyone is focused on getting food. The males and the striped females swing side by side.
Only a midnight blue Stellar’s Jay is bold enough to stop in and grab a sunflower seed. The smaller birds keep their distance.
Once the blackbirds return to the elm or the telephone wire, one can see the blizzard feed is not a single species event. English sparrow, house finch, Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, spotted towhee, golden crowned sparrow, and white crowned sparrow drill for thistle, cracked corn, millet, and sunflower seed. A Northern flicker hits the suet cake. Even a denizen of the prairie the Western Meadowlark sits in a doorway, leading to the deck, watching as snow pours down and covers the grasslands more and more deeply
Snow has been falling so densely the past six hours, that the farmhouses’ exterior window sills are supporting many little birds. The sills are snow free, because we have a hip roof with deep eaves. Miniature-bodied juncos have lined up along all the sills. Their unblinking obsidian jeweled eyes register the environment as the birds rest and conserve energy.
The bleakest bird today is a young Cooper’s hawk sitting bunched and weary on a branch of the old elderberry bush just outside the kitchen window. The raptor might survive another day, if it could just catch one of the small birds flitting about it. But, already the hawk seems past the blizzard feed’s tipping point. The tipping point, the tipping point, the tipping point…