Friday, November 30, 2007


At 2:30 PM, the Red-breasted Nuthatch stopped by the bird bath, found it frozen, promptly flew over to the suet, had a bite, and then looked at me. Usually at the first sight of me he's gone in a flash, but today he just keeps staring and somehow I have a feeling he is telepathically communicating, "You know the water's frozen, right? Planning on doing anything about it? It better be soon, or else. Ever had a sunflower seed hatched into your eyebrow?"

But complaints about the water situation had started long before the Nuthatch, way before.

10:35 AM The patio curtain was closed against the morning cold waiting for the sun to hit the glass. It's in the teens today, though we do have some sun. Not that it matters all that much because there's also a brisk wind. With the curtain closed, obviously I can't see the beasties. I pick up the camera just in case and tweak the curtain back just a little. Who should be staring at me from the picnic table--glowing, and it's not just the sun reflecting off Snowflake's chubby rather blinding white belly. From their postures I'd say there is some post-copulation after-glow going on here.

They both continue to stare at me. Then Snowflake looking into my eyes turns her head slowly away, takes a beat looking at the bird bath, then slowly turns back and locks eyes with me again.. Wow, I think, no, can't be. Is she trying to tell me she's thirsty? That may be a little far for squirrel mental capacity, but you never know. I look back at them. "You know if you guys hadn't been having squirrel sex on the picnic table again, you wouldn't be nearly as thirsty as you are now."

Unfazed they continue attempting to spur me on by boring their little beady squirrel eyes into me. It's really cold out there. And I mean really cold for those of us used to milder winters.

I'd cheated earlier and just poured warm water over the ice and then scurried back into the house with my teeth chattering. It was an epiphanal moment. Hello! The time has passed for the year, where you can just run out without a coat even for "just a minute" to fill the bird bath.

Okay, time to don the polar wear and get serious. But first the ice pick must be found. For whatever reason the ice takes a tight grip of this particular bird bath and you can't just tip it and dump the ice out. I dig around in the kitchen drawers. I know I've seen one. Ah ha! Got it.

Now the lined boots, the parka, scarf, hat, gloves, ice pick, bucket of hot water. Check.

Out I go, scurrying. (Hey, I don't have long underwear on after all.) Snowflake and her paramour head up a tree and then watch me avidly from the crotch. Yeah, yeah, fascinating. Jab, jab, jab, with the ice pick. Brush out the fragments. Continue jabbing until empty and fill with water. Brrrrrrrrr. Run for the house.

Feeling noble I peel off the extra layers, and store them tidily away.

1:18 PM I look out the window and there is a squirrel having a drink. Then I realize, as he skirts around the edge of the bowl without his left foot going deeper than his right, it's frozen again. He's not drinking. He's licking the ice where it is the most thin. Oh no. Well, he's pretty plump, it's probably not making him that cold.

Then he turns, it's One Eye III. Oh, man. I've realized that currently there are three squirrels that visit the yard with a problem in one eye. Okay, that's pathetic. I'm letting the visually challenged squirrel lick ice instead of giving him some water. He has enough problems already. I pull the outerwear out once again and I'm back into the boots, parka, scarf...
3:26 PM This is when the Red-breasted Nuthatch above, shows up at the suet and threatens me. The ice pick is now living at the back door as is my outerwear. I fill the bucket and make another run for it.

3:53 PM The male Finch looks me right in the eye while chewing his sunflower seed, "You know you didn't get all the ice out last time and now I can't get a drink."
"What do you mean, you can't get a drink?", I think towards him.
He thinks back, rather snottily in my opinion, "Just what I said, I can't get a drink."
And just why is that? Then I realize, ice crystals are just like any other, well except for the expansion, but that's another issue. Crystals grow and if you leave any crystals to cue the pattern in the liquid, it crystallizes much faster and this guy being little, he can't break through the hard crystals on the top of the water. And just how long has it been since I filled it last, anyway?

It's 3:54 PM and even the squirrel can't get through the top ice and he's having to lick. Fine. I'm getting rid of every bloody crystal this time. Where are the Blue Jays when you need them? At least I have everything standing ready at the back door and I don't have to dig it out again.

The wind ripples the water now but it won't for long. The temperature is dropping yet further. The weekend is supposed to bring a humdinger of a snowstorm. I knew it. The Geese and Sandhill Cranes have been flying over in droves for two days.

A female House Finch lands, and stares at the water as if she can't quite believe her eyes

The Junco, the low sunlight shining through his beak, does the same thing.

4:01 PM It's Doorstep on the wire checking for the Cooper's Hawk. She's going to want a drink. It's only been six minutes, the water should be okay if she comes down soon.

4:15 PM I can't believe it. The top is already ice. Her left foot is standing on it.

It's only been 20 minutes, maybe she can tap through. She tries. Then I see her sliding her beak and most likely trying to suck any stray drops up. Doves are capable of sucking water but not if there isn't any. She turns and looks at me.
Okay, I'll get you some. But you better stay around to drink it.
I don't have time to see if Doorstep does come back for her drink as I have to make a dive for the truck to get to the nursing home in time to feed my mother dinner. She's no longer capable of feeding herself. As I'm pulling out of the driveway, breathing white mist, I think, you know that $29.00 bird bath warmer I didn't buy at Farm & Fleet doesn't seem nearly as expensive as it did yesterday.
Donegal Browne

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1 comment:

Karen Anne said...

I'm sorry about your Mom...

How cold is it out there anyway? duncraft has some bird bath heating things on their web site.

My neighbor has a koi pond, with a water-moving gizmo that keeps the top unfrozen in the winter, and flat stones on the edge that make good perching places for birds to drink from, so I can stay in the house nice and toasty even when my birdbaths are frozen.