Both bluebirds land on top of the stump, look at me, and warble aggressively. In the lily-of-the-valley bed, the bells are fading to brown.
I’d thought the bluebirds’ nest in the stump next to the porch had failed, but no: they just wait till I’m gone to go in. I am their troll.
The bluebirds perch side by side on a branch, facing the dead cherry and their hidden, ravenous brood. A fat groundhog runs across the yard.
The woods’ edge is a collage of pastels: just-opened leaves, catkins, maple keys. The old cherry stump chirps like a phone: baby bluebirds.
Two chickadees inspect the old cherry stump for potential nest holes, tapping, exploring its hollow core. Up on the ridge, a turkey gobbles.
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.