Saturday, February 22, 2014

POTM...*: Winter Visitors

(*Photo of the Month)

I’m a little rushed for time with my blog this week, as our four Alaska grandkids have been visiting and have preoccupied Gail and me in a wonderful way. We’ve been outdoors much of the time – and over these days have fed a lot of birds, played a lot in the snow or mud, caught the same squirrel twice (he’s sprung the trap and escaped twice more), caught no rabbits (the intended quarry), taken several nice hikes up along the South Platte River or here on a couple of our premier Castle Rock trails, cooked hot dogs and marshmallows on the backyard campfire, driven to the top of Pikes Peak, and explored the dinosaur bones and footprints along west Denver’s Dinosaur Ridge, all among other nature-oriented things I am not remembering. This is to say nothing of the indoor activities that have also filled our days and evenings, but we are always particularly interested in getting our grandkids outside enjoying the wonders of God’s creation, as we did when our own were young. Seven-year-old Madeleine has already developed quite a knack for it all; and, along with their nature-loving parents, we’re always working on her younger sibs and cousin as well, convinced as we are that nature-deprivation can be a very real liability among instinctively imaginative children. (Check out Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods: Protecting our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.)

But our offspring are not our only visitors these late winter days. I mentioned that we’d fed a lot of birds, and my photo of the month highlights one of our most frequent callers. It’s the ubiquitous Mountain Chickadee, a gregarious and acrobatic little guest found at our feeders or flitting through our seeded bushes. Among its slight differences from the more common Black-capped Chickadee, whose range it shares in the mountain west, it has a white stripe over each eye rather than a solid black cap, and is a bit smaller. Birds are famous for having onomatopoeic names (Adam must have gotten a bit bird-bored during naming sessions…), and so its name mimics its chick-a-dee-dee-dee call. Mountain Chickadees are also colloquially called cheeseburger birds, as one of their calls seems to say chee-bur-ger. Really. As a non-migratory species (i.e., it is resident all year), its diet concentrates on insects during summer months and seeds in winter.  Monogamous in its breeding patterns, it will usually travel in pairs or small flocks, with individuals moving quickly from branch to branch or tree to tree.

There’s no question but that we will greatly miss our grandchildren, daughter and son-in-law when they return north. But we know for certain that there is one winter visitor who will be sticking around.

Jesus said, "That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life -- whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)

~~RGM, February 21, 2014

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