• Austen Hayes

Meeting the house finch

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all." ~ Emily Dickinson

Wherever I live, I feed the birds in winter.

Birdhouses left behind by the previous owner of the cottage I live in hang out of view from any window. I read somewhere when birds feed, they need overhead protection from swooping predators waiting to ambush the unsuspecting. The 'houses' meet the need for safety but not my need to watch as these beauties fly in at the start of every day. To satisfy all, I placed an old garden chair in front of the large living room windows, tall enough for small visitors to move about comfortably, less visible with a kind of makeshift roof over their heads.

The rewards of being able to observe these vibrant, alive creatures are many - sometimes a solitary bluejay, then a family of large, grey, dove-like birds, sometimes a squirrel sharing the goods with one or two finches - the varieties in size, colour, movement, method of making a food choice, changing through the day.

No matter how small, there's majesty in these animals with dinosaur origins, here from a time before our own...majesty as they move swiftly with grace and unimaginable power in spite of such delicate bodies - able to liftoff in seconds, tiny wings flapping into the wide sky.

I saw a red-topped house finch yesterday. Vivid crimson crowning the male head, a result of a diet rich in carotenoid, announcing health and vigor to the female looking for the strongest, most resourceful life mate to share in the birth and guidance of offspring to come.

Mornings I head out with a red bucket carrying a mixture of sunflower seeds, peanuts, and bird "trail mix", calling out to let the birds know I'm coming. And... they answer! There's a kind of energy in the trees as they grow wildly busy creating bright, cheery sounds in the form of chirpings and tweets...

where the birds live in hope

(real tweets)...talking all at once - I imagine to me, but, more likely, to each other, saying food is on the way.

How little birds ask compared to all they give - safety, shelter from the cold, a few seeds, a peanut here and there - these are their simple needs. But, oh, what they bring! Beauty, wonder, gentleness, harmony and song - grey, winter days suddenly hopeful with splashes of colour, nature's silence broken by the glory of every perfect note.

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