Fox Sparrow on a Snowy Day

After two days of sleet, misty rain and temperatures staying just above freezing, this morning we awoke to a world of white. Snow had fallen overnight, covering the ground, the roads, piling up on the balcony railing and even blowing into drifts against the garage door, almost a foot deep in places, though mostly three or four inches. Snow continued to fall for a while, very lightly dusting down – rare and lovely for us here.

Early in the morning, in tiny flakes of swirling snow, a big, plump sparrow was hopping and scratching under the bushes right outside our living room windows. Its wings and tail looked dark red-brown, and thick, blurry red-brown streaks marked its sides – a beautiful red Fox Sparrow. Its breast was very thickly streaked in rich red-brown, its belly white, and its face was patterned in dove-gray and fox-red – warm, lush colors in a snow-white setting, seen through a very light blur of snow. It turned toward me and spent a few minutes hopping to scratch up leaves and snow around the base of a cleyera bush.

I could hardly believe it was right there in our own front yard, very near the windows where I stood. Fox Sparrows spend the winter here, but because they are shy and usually stay hidden in shrubby places, they’re not often noticed, and it always seems special to me when I find one. I’ve rarely seen one in our yard – and yet, this is the second one I’ve seen in our neighborhood this winter. I watched for several minutes as it foraged right around this spot under the bushes and near the window – until it finally flew low toward the corner of the house and out of sight.

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