The downside to keeping the birdfeeders filled in the winter is that it acts like a bait-station for predators. The healthy stretch of woods behind our house is home to a decent population of Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and red-tails. But it’s mostly the Cooper’s and sharpies that favor the birdfeeder as a drive-through. Time after time, since we have lived in this house, I have seen a blur of feathers and speed passing by the window that faces the woods; most likely a Cooper’s in pursuit of dinner. Other times, I have witnessed an explosion of gray and white feathers, as one of the hawks appeared out of nowhere, and tagged a mourning dove off the feeder, or the ground. Mostly, I just find a pile of feathers later in my walk, nothing but the scene of the crime left, the world silent as the chickadees and squirrels have scattered, peering out of their holes to see if it is safe to resume their own, more genial, pursuit of feeding themselves.
I am guilty of bemoaning the difficulties of winter, and I openly long for the day when I can snow-bird to some place warm. The beach in February always sounds like it would be a salve to cure all ills during an ice storm. Or the Arizona desert calls out to me so I could fill my senses with a western landscape. But the truth is, since I write, and that will not change no matter where I live, I would most likely sit at the keyboard and stare out the window, dive into my imagination, and go somewhere else. Besides, I would miss the pleasure of the first snow, of that first day with my boots on, out with the dogs as they nip at snowflakes, the comfort of my favorite Woolrich flannel, and the pleasure of a fire with friends gathered around it, drinking hot tea, and eating a bit of decadent sweetness to get through the day, the week, the season.
Most hawks stay north for the winter, and like them, I think I’m better off for staying right where I am.