Janet Sheridan: Disney through the window

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“Hey, Janet, you watching animal movies again this summer?” my brother Blaine asked with a stifled laugh.

“Yes, I am, and I suppose you’re still be watching animals you plan to shoot,” I replied in a hoity-toity tone that set his laugh free.

I explained to my incredulous brother several summers ago that my favorite part of the season was spending early mornings in my living room with Joel and a cup of coffee, watching animals frolic in our yard.

I described squirrels bouncing across the grass, tussling with one another like rambunctious boys looking for trouble while sparrows, siskin, and finches swooped in for an early breakfast.

“Before long,” I continued, ignoring Blaine’s amused incredulity, “flowers open to the sun, robins splash in the birdbath, hummingbirds sip daintily from their designated feeder, fawns peek through the fence, and butterflies drift gracefully by —while turtle doves court one another from afar.

“Sounds like a Disney movie,” he observed. “I’m happy for you — you’ve surrounded yourself with the little critters you always adored: Bambi, Thumper, and the bluebirds that wrapped ribbons around Cinderella.”

“Tell me,” he said when he stopped laughing at himself, “do little birdies ever fly into your windows and break their little necks?”

Blaine always did prefer bedlam, but I didn’t let his ridicule deter me.

I continue to be rewarded by my dawn window-watch.

Joel and I hang our birdfeeders in early April.

Soon excited sparrows, the busybodies of the bird-world, discover the feeders and spread the word.

The next day, numerous birds fly in through the morning light to feast at our diner.

The squirrels try to join them at the table, but can’t. We bought our feeders at a local store because their packaging didn’t say they were squirrel-proof, only squirrel-resistant.

We appreciated the honesty.

The first time we hung one of the new feeders, a squirrel circled it, preparing for a dare-devil trip along thin aspen branches, down a swaying wire, and onto the feeder, the outer case of which is supposed to slide down under the squirrel’s weight, thus covering the openings where birds perch and snack.

After long minutes of hanging by his toes and exploring all options, the squirrel abandoned the effort and leaped away, acting like it wasn’t interested.

Fifteen minutes later, it reappeared, climbed the tree at breakneck speed, stretched its Gumby body long and thin until it reached the feeder’s top, then swung the rest of its body over. The holes snapped shut. Joel and I high-fived.

This year, a raven decided our yard had possibilities.

He paced the length of the sidewalk, flipping pieces of bark out of our border of mixed perennials like a prankster overturning neighborhood garbage cans.

Then he discovered the birdbath and stalked about in it for a few minutes before flying away.

Moments later, he returned with a piece of stale bread, obtained from some other feeding station, dropped it in the birdbath, and took leisurely bites of the softened bread, a ritual he repeated every day for a week before moving on to new adventures.

Each year we watch for the baby birds, wide-eyed and fluffy, that totter on branches, flap their wings wildly, and look big-eyed with astonishment when they take off and manage to land again after a short and chaotic flight.

Then, exhausted, they cling to a branch, heads tipped back and mouths open wide, quivering with excitement when their mother approaches with food.

A toddler hummingbird delighted us one summer by perching perilously on our telephone wire every morning, shedding baby down.

We picked up several miniature fluffs of feather from beneath his daily perch before he groomed himself to perfection and took flight.

I read recently that though many fascinating animals exist in our world, most of us ignore all but those that could do us harm or feed us.

That would be my brother, Blaine. I, myself, prefer the Disney movie I watch through early morning windows.

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