As I put away the flashy lights and ornaments, which decorated my yard for the Christmas holiday season, I am reflecting on the simple pleasure of bare bark, clean lines, natural colors and the feathered, living ornaments that aren’t nearly as flashy, but are just as beautiful.
No more gold shiny orbs or flashing crystal bulbs. Instead I see the natural forms of my garden “skeleton”. Fortunately I have planted some bushes, which produce berries, some trees with interesting bark coloration and patterns and lots of great dogwoods which change color in the cold temperatures to showy reds and yellows.
As the leaves have fallen, we can more clearly see some of our Cedar Mill winter bird inhabitants. While many of them are in their “drab” winter wear we can in fact see some hints of the vivid breeding plumage soon to come.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the white-edged flash of Junco tail feathers. They are a common sight in our winter yards. Usually they lurk around under bushes to find food but as they flit from one dark cover to another we may see the quick flashes of brilliant white, which stands out particularly well in our recent string of foggy days.
Other birds also treat us to small patches of resplendent colors. Our over-wintering resident, male Anna’s Hummingbirds have iridescent crimson on head and throat, which glints in the (rare) sunlight. The Yellow-rumped Warblers are aptly named. As they visit the suet feeders near our windows I admire their outfit, which includes matching bright yellow on their heads and some on the flanks. Our male Downy woodpeckers have obvious red patches on their crowns of their heads. Pine Siskins become common in the winter as the groups who summer in the North come here for “warmth”. These non-descript little birds are often in mixed flocks of both types of Goldfinches (American and Lesser) and other “little brown jobs” or LBJs.
Many of the small winter birds fly in mixed flocks. So take a look the next time Bushtits swarm your suet feeders. Almost always in my Bushtit flocks of late, there is a lone Ruby-crowned Kinglet. They are about the same size but clearly different; they are deep olive, the have two white wing bars, an eye ring and a slightly larger and plump body shape. If it is a male, and he has a moment of excitement we may be fortunate to witness the split second display of the incredible luminous scarlet topknot as they feed on the suet.
As the busy-ness of the holidays wind down and the glitter of the artificial decorations is stored in boxes for the next season, we have a chance to enjoy the pleasures of ordinary, quiet winter days. We can reflect on our goals for the coming year, make plans and resolutions but we can also choose to enjoy some quiet before the yard beckons us to spring chores. We can look for the small moments of wonder in a flash of color.
And as those of us lucky enough to have a break from work go back to the tasks awaiting us—may we keep our promise to enjoy the daily opportunities to find delight in the living “ornaments” adorning our surroundings.