Here in northwest Arkansas, we’ve just had a few inches of snow and several nights of temperatures in the low teens. It was 13 last night. They’ve been out in Fayetteville plowing and sanding the streets. Suffering from mild cabin fever, I walked the mile from my house up to the UA campus. Campus was mostly empty except for flocks of robins and starlings working the last fruits, but on the way Wilson Park’s steep hillside hosted 200 boisterous children and used-to-be children sailing the steep hillside on recycling bin lids, plastic saucers, a door, linoleum strips, a bunch of junk I wasn’t even sure what it was, and even a few proper sleds. It was Norman Rockwell set in the Arkansas Ozarks, where native innovation reigns.
Home again (in the same day!) from my walk, me and the Toyota -- with 255,000 miles, including sun and ice and well-earned squeaks in wheels, springs, and doors that sound like birds -- negotiated mostly plowed and sometimes sanded roads out to Sara and Coy Bartlett’s place to see the remarkable thing, with feathers, – all 4.88 grams (and at that weight deemed “fat”) of Anna’s Hummingbird. It was there, as Sara had promised, and I sat in Toyota with my trusty scope on the window and collected images like I was out on the west coast. It is nothing, if not remarkable, to see a striking, healthy bird close up, no matter when, or where, but it far exceeds the merely remarkable when that bird is a few grams of hummingbird in the middle of winter in the Ozarks.
Like a Christmas card, the Bartlett place is all snowy, including pines and a magnolia snow-painted, grounds under feeders with dense flocks of every kind of snow bird your heart could desire. I saw enough seeds in feeders and spread on the icy ground to make me think the Bartlett’s will have to refinance the farm unless winter ends soon. And I haven’t even mentioned paying for electricity for the heat lamp that keeps the hummingbird feeder flowing and thawed water in a bird bath. Dining here at least: Dark-eyed Juncos (what old timers used to call “snow bird”), White-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, American Goldfinches, House Finches, a few Brown-headed Cowbirds, a Downy Woodpecker, a Song Sparrow, a White-breasted Nuthatch. Periodically the birds make a BIG noisy flush, so I assume a Cooper’s Hawk is dining here, too, though I never saw it. AND, sailing over the ice and snow and birds on the ground, 4.88 grams of Anna’s Hummingbird, reddening up on throat and crown and maybe studying maps for its trip back West.