A persistent knocking from inside the tall cherry stump. I walk around it: a downy woodpecker’s wingtip protrudes from a roosting hole.
A Carolina wren lands on the dead cherry stump and pumps his round body up and down, as if priming the inexhaustible pump of his song.
Windy and cold. A downy woodpecker works over the dead cherry, sounding like a fast hunt-and-peck typist. A towhee calls from the lilac.
The trees seethe with the small birds of winter. Even the cherry stump beside the porch attracts a nuthatch’s thorough investigation.
It’s raining. The chickadees have fledged and gone, and their hole in the cherry stump seems as empty as a skull’s eye socket.
The female chickadee perches motionless in the mouth of the den. The male gives her an inchworm and she sits holding it for half a minute.
The hollow tock of a chipmunk calling from within the rock wall. A chickadee perched atop the stump opens his wings wide to shake off rain.
The chickadees take turns carrying insects into their hole, bold, ignoring my presence a few feet away. From the hidden chicks, nary a peep.
A chickadee lands on the cherry snag and chitters till his mate emerges from the hole. He gives her a bit of food and they fly off together.
A catbird mews from within the crabapple’s scandalous maroon. It starts to rain. A chickadee carries a worm into its hole in the stump.
A chickadee carries a piece of gray down into their hole in the tree; its mate follows it in. A minute later it carries the down back out.
Only the tail-tip of the chickadee now protrudes from the dead cherry tree, and I can barely hear it hammering at the rotten heartwood.
While one chickadee digs out their den, pecking at the rotten cherry wood, its mate waits atop the stump, grooming its pale breast feathers.
Back from migration, a Louisiana waterthrush sings above the trickle of a stream. Chickadees excavate a den hole in the dead cherry stump.
A titmouse inspects the undersides of several limb-stumps on the dead cherry snag, its cap wobbling. Shadows fade in and out. It’s cold.
The lace-work of leafless treetops against the clouds. No wonder the dead cherry with its cluster of six limb-stumps reminds me of despair.