The one good thing about winter is that it's easy for me to be up before the sun. Despite the cold I sit on my front porch and watch the sky, waiting for the birds to wake up.
It is still dark. The wind is cold. The weather has changed.
Silhouetted against the clouds a lone mourning dove shoots for the sky and suddenly dives for cover. He's seen a coopers hawk perched above, invisible to me in the half light. The coopers hawk tries for the dove, misses, and flies away. The idea of a dove for breakfast roused him earlier than he'd planned.
A moment of silence and then I hear a distant caw. The first flock of crows has left the roost. Over a hundred crows in this initial push, flying close together, doubling back on themselves, making a circle above my house. The wind complicates their progress and keeps them focused and silent. For the next twenty minutes flocks of crows pulse by, a hundred at a time.
The sky brightens a little and high above the crows loose flocks of robins fly south. I wonder if they're migrating today or merely going out to forage and return.
Now the dark-eyed juncoes begin to twitter from the hedges while squadrons of starlings pass overhead. More birds call from the underbrush - cardinals and song sparrows. There are so many birds on the move that I can no longer count them, though the sun hasn't risen yet.
Then exactly at dawn a single house sparrow in my neighbor's spruce says "cheep." Soon the entire flock is chattering inside the tree, conducting a long conversation to greet and plan the day.
The cold has penetrated my coat. I've finished my coffee. If I wait any longer I'll be stiff from cold. Time to go indoors and start my day, too.
(stock photo from Shutterstock)