A dry ticking of junco alarm calls from all directions. A small hawk—Cooper’s or sharp-shinned—hurtles between the snow-plastered trees.
Is it my imagination, or do the juncos seem especially restless this morning? The distant roar of a military jet. A pileated taps on an oak.
Juncos rearrange themselves in the lilac—the scrabble of their feet. If nothing else, this winter has brought great stretches of silence.
The only spots of bare earth are in the plowed driveway. When I stand up, they erupt in wings, seeding the snowy yard with brown sparrows.
Sunlight softened by high clouds. A great stillness, punctuated by the flutter of sparrow wings and a chickadee singing its spring song.
A junco separated from its flock chirps noisily in the lilac. At the edge of the field, two crows do their frantic best to gin up a mob.
Two degrees below freezing. Juncos bathe in the creek, darting into the currant bushes to groom. A house finch’s labyrinthine cadenza.
Wind-blown snow. I sit with my feet propped on the railing until my jeans turn white. A junco flies under them as if I weren’t there.
Dozens of juncos flit through the bushes. The old brown retriever that I’m dog-sitting watches from the porch, her nose quivering.
Dimples stipple the snow below the porch where icicles dripped. Sparrow tracks circle a dame’s-rocket seed-head bent down by the last storm.
A maze of squirrel and sparrow tracks between ice-covered tufts of grass glittering in the sun. Down in the valley, a siren starts up.
Parallel lines of arrows where a sparrow hopped through the new snow. The sharp-edged shadows of the trees are a blacker blue than the sky.
Weak sunlight from a whitening sky. A flock of juncos comes twittering into the lilac, hopping on and off the old, broken statue of a dog.
A mink hunts in the creek-side meadow, weaving through currant bushes where juncos bathe and groom, neither paying attention to the other.
Cold, with a bitter wind. The juncos sound twice as cheerful as they did before the snow, twittering as they chase through the lilac.
In the poor light, the quick movements of birds: those that chatter, those that flutter, those that scuttle like beetles, those that tap.