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THROUGH THE WOODS: The waning sunlight

Downy woodpecker on the empty suet feeder. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

THE NUMBER OF HOURS OF SUNLIGHT per day is decreasing this time of year in our Earth’s northern hemisphere. If the weather outdoors remains tolerable, I like to be out to see what is happening and get some of those remaining good rays. In summer it is nice to be out in the morning and now it is more pleasant after lunch when things have warmed up.

A cake of suet is hanging on the porch in a dollar store feeder as a test to see if the bear is finally hibernating. I could afford to have that feeder stolen but not my expensive squirrel-proof feeders. Nothing has happened to it for several weeks; when the cold finally comes, the switch can be made.

Today was gloomy and rainy, with a noon temperature of 41 F. The birds finished the seed and suet on the porch, so I went out to restock. With a warm jacket and a cup of hot coffee, it wasn’t bad by 3 p.m. The sun came out and I watched and listened. Deer hunter gunshots were heard coming from different distant locations. A flock of crows began mobbing something or someone. A raven joined in followed by blue jays. Gunshots draw these birds to where they anticipate a meal, or they come to warn everyone in the vicinity. The usually numerous deer at my place are in hiding.

The warm sunlight was so nice as the yard quieted down. Birds were flying to the yard to feed. This activity draws in other birds as well as squirrels. I could hear a wild turkey clucking. Red, the one-eyed red squirrel, is the porch guard. He tolerates the birds and chases off the gray squirrels, which eat more and do not tolerate many birds. If a gray squirrel starts up the steps Red chatters a warning. If this isn’t heeded, he takes off after the gray and chases it out of the yard. If he can get close, he bites. He is my friend and gets to eat his fill. His coat is thick and a gorgeous red that glistened in the sun.

The red male cardinal often feeds close to the red squirrel, and they are a beautiful pair. Fifteen minutes of sun a day is supposed to be good for us. It elevates our mood, gets our skin to produce vitamin D, and improves our sleep. It elevated my mood, and these shortened days make me appreciate it more. I looked at the dead flowerbeds and cheered myself with thoughts of their sleeping bulbs awaiting spring. The dead leaves and sticks provide cover for the winter birds which will make them happy, and in turn make me happy, especially in the sun.

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