We used to say the birds who spent their winters around our property were our winter flowers, and through all four seasons we carefully maintained many feeders, with different kinds of seeds for all the different species.
And so, even in our valley winters when white is usually the dominant landscape color, we enjoyed the astonishing variety of birds that visited our bird cafeteria.
About five years ago we stopped feeding the birds in ANY season; our woodland property also had lots of rodent mammals, and the feeders were attracting them TO and INTO our house in great numbers.
We did make a point of changing our gardens and landscaping to provide seasonal food for our flying friends. And, of course, we included a variety of plant species to provide winter food as well.
But as the seemingly endless deep snows of this winter wore on, it at last became apparent to us that those natural foods were either depleted or buried out of reach beneath the snow-pack.
One morning in late January, we noticed a wren had begun to seek shelter in our porch area. We would sit quietly with our morning coffee, so as not to spook the wary little bird as he searched for nourishment in dried plant heads in the front garden. Obviously, those "cupboards" were bare, and so we broke our own rule and began a discreet feeding program for our feathered daily visitor.
Each day we would finely chop a small amount of peanuts and set them close to the big planter at the edge of the porch, where the wren liked to hide. As dawn appeared each morning, so would that wren, and we'd watch as he earnestly ate his breakfast.
On the few mornings when we didn't see him---perhaps we had slept past his breakfast time---we would worry that he had become a victim of winter or predators. But then he'd always return.
Last week the wren "introduced" us to his mate, and then there were two appearing daily for breakfast.
Wrens aren't new to our porch. Each year for some time, a wren couple has set up housekeeping at some location there. One year it was in one of my garden boots; another year it was in a wreath on my door; another year in a planter of dried materials...
But NEVER, for whatever reason, have these sprightly little birds set up their seasonal home in the little wren house designed and installed on a sheltered wall of the porch by Bob the Retired Builder. Even though Bob used the specific measurements for wren houses... and even though I attached an address label...THE WREN FAMILY!
We know this variety of wren doesn't migrate, and we wish this little couple luck in avoiding predators and living long enough to set up housekeeping.
And we hope they will choose our front porch. Better yet, the small house that was built for them.
(Rose About Town assures you that spring's on the way. Comments accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org)