This past spring, being the first spring in which I have owned my own home and small square of property, I fulfilled a dream of many years and planted a flowering dogwood tree in my backyard.  It’s a mere collection of sticks now, sprouting from a trunk not much thicker than a carpenter’s pencil.  But I dream of the day when it’s grown tall, the canopy spread, and I can sit beneath, my back against the trunk, in cool shade on a summer’s day.

My dogwood sits next to my bird feeder and the birds often perch on its small branches, although for the past several weeks I’ve been sadly birdless.  The flocks of autumn – which were emptying my feeder daily, and sometimes even twice daily, have gone.  So too have the small band of early winter birds that visited through December, including the Northern Chickadees that I had been so longing to see.

Even with the extreme cold we’ve faced this past month, the seed level has dropped by two-thirds only over the course of the past four weeks.  It is a very rare morning that I see anyone perched in the backyard at all, my chickadees, assorted sparrows, and cardinal family all absent.

I am not certain, but my best guess is that the lack of easy shelter is keeping them away.  Even in summer, I know that they would prefer nearer shelter than the bushes that line either side of the property, some twenty or so feet away in either direction.  In winter I can only assume that the exposure, both to the elements and potential predators, constitutes too much risk, too much energy demand, to be balanced by the prospect of free food.

It is disappointing, although I maintain hope that the return of spring will bring with it the return of last year’s goldfinch hoards, and all the rest of the familiar faces.  And likewise, that as my dogwood grows, it will provide the safety and cover that the birds seek and require.

Crappy photo from the A590 through my kitchen window.  It’s 9 degrees out – I wasn’t going out there to get a good photo.  Sorry.


Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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