Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The birds of winter

As I left the office today, I watched a very large bird swirl overhead, lifting higher and higher on the thermal air, in sharp contrast to the brilliant winter-blue sky. His head and tail were white, his body a solid dark color, and his wings hardly flapped at all as he let the air currents carry him ever higher. A bald eagle, at least 5 years old by his coloring. Florida and Alaska have the largest breeding populations, but they're still not a common sight.

Sitting on my back porch fountain, here, is a female summer tanager, having a drink alongside the beautiful pink-flowering trumpet trees I started from Katie's cuttings. Tanagers don't visit the feeders much, as they dwell high in the oak and hickory trees, and we mostly know they're present by the trilling song Mr. Tanager begins in early spring and continues through the summer. That, and we sometimes see the flash of scarlet, high above the range preferred by the cardinals.

And all this is by way of telling you that my yard was filled with hundreds and hundreds of migrating robins yesterday afternoon. This tells me, as surely as anything, that the days will surely grow longer, that the sunsets will be warmer soon, that all the frostbitten flowers will raise their heads again, and that none of this will be long in coming. When my single camellia with its varigated York and Tudor colors has finished blooming, the bank of azaleas will ready itself for a showy statement about the definitive arrival of spring.
Tonight the wind chill is predicted to be about 14 degrees, though it seldom falls to the projected lowest levels here along the banks of our beloved creek, so close to the Tolomato River. But 14 or 24, this is still damned cold by my lights. The reminder of the robins bearing testament to the inexorable approach of spring warms my heart.

Turn on the oven to warm up the rest of you. If you need an excuse, you can make Cream Biscuits. I've adopted this recipe from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book, and it's a recipe she credits to James Beard, one that doubles excellently well as shortcakes if you have fresh fruit for dessert but is also perfect with any soup or stew you might serve in this weather. Who am I kidding? Just make them. Even if you're serving frozen pizza for supper, no one will mind.

Put 2 cups of all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of baking powder, and about a teaspoon of sugar into a bowl and stir with a fork to lighten. Add about 1 to 1-1/2 cups fresh cream and stir until the dough forms a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface, knead for about a minute and then cut into shapes as you desire; I always cut into diamond shapes. Dip each biscuit into melted better (you'll need about a half cup). Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes.

Let me know what you think.


  1. Lovely. Beautiful picture, too.
    Isn't it funny how the older we get, the more the birds mean to us, how much more we notice them?

  2. Ms. Moon,
    I must give credit for the excellent bird photos (next time I use one of them) to my dear husband, who has an uncanny eye for birds. As you say, the older we get... Thank you for your continued support of this embryonic effort. XXOO.


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