Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


When Death Leads to Life

Sandra Polvinale

There's a lot of life to be experienced just from one's kitchen window. There's a secret garden out this window! I live in a nearby "wilderness." No need to go on safari to Africa when I see the wild cats and exotic creatures just within my reach. There are striped orange tabby tigers and huge Russian blue lions out there! One proud lion is sitting right here on my lap as I write. Alarming, isn't it? And there is nothing like a big fat calico purring, hanging on one's arm as you're trying to type. Ha! She turns her head slowly, giving what I call kitty kisses, which are partial winks showing contentment and love. In late winter and early spring, we tend to get surprise snowstorms. Who doesn't enjoy seeing the snowbirds and cardinals doing a beautiful feeding dance by the bird feeders? The next time we look there is no activity outside my private jungle, with the exception of one lone bird feeding on the ground under the huge 100-foot blue spruce tree.

I thought, what kind of bird is this, a woodpecker (from the size) or a mourning dove, due to its long tail? It looked as if it were eating pine nuts out of a long dried-out pine cone. But, look closely, I was telling myself. Thank God for progressive lenses in my glasses allowing me to zoom in close for a look. The beak was not straight. It was not pecking, it was pulling! Oh my gosh! I saw a flutter. It was a carnivorous bird eating another bird alive! A beautiful scarlet cardinal! No! It had pulled out all the feathers and was now ingesting a full meal. Oops! He saw me. We had a staring contest until he grabbed the half eaten limp bird in its talons and flew to the top of the pines. Wow! It was the smallest flesh-eating bird I have ever seen. Perhaps a hawk? I opened my bird book and there he was. He was a sharp-shinned hawk, familiarly known as a Sharpie. They prey on small birds right at...yes, backyard bird feeders, as in my secret garden in my modern-day wilderness. It is quite a spectacular sight to witness, but not for the faint-hearted.

Another time, peering into my private jungle, I surprised a beautifully plumed pheasant just feeding under the bird feeder as if he had all the time in the world. How graceful pheasants are. I think they are the most beautiful birds I have ever laid my eyes on! This one had a little tuft of feathers on the top of his head (like an Easter bonnet I once had). They were a wispy and fluorescent blend of warm and cool shiny colors. The tail feathers were long and dragged the ground like Gypsy Rose Lee dragged her fur coat across the stage in the 1950s and '60s. I watched from every window in my old log home until he gracefully picked and scratched all the way around the bank barn. He looked especially nice when he managed to get in the glow of the last shafts of the evening light. Pheasants feed just like chickens, for they are in the same family. A little scratch, peck, swallow and so on.

Have you ever seen a big ol' Tom turkey ? I did. All feathers proudly fluffed out, he was doing the same scratch and peck dance, but came to say a hello outside my window tapping on the glass. Ha!

One evening I opened my sliding glass door to let little Miss Citykitty inside for the night and Ahhh! I screamed! It wasn't my cute little kitty. I was face to face with a big ol' skunk! He looked at me and screamed! I ran behind the curtain and breathed a sigh of relief. The skunk ran behind the door and thanked God he didn't have to deal with that big ol' lady again. We both tip-toed around the corner again sneeking a peek, and ...Ah! I looked at him and screamed louder! He screamed, I screamed! Well, we did a little scream routine until he ran away. Sounded rather musical. I can read his thoughts right now, "What a crazy farm lady, I am outta here!"

So, there you have it. I have seen lions and tigers and yes, bears! Oh my! Walking across the street, a black bear startled a passerby in a car. Maybe with his keen sense of smell, he was looking for a honey treat. Once they find your honey supers, forget a-b-o-u-t it. Bears are nothing to mess with as they can outrun you, outclimb you, and swim! So, don't even try to get a nice close look and don't even get near their cubs! You may be their lunch if you do that. But if you respect Mother Nature, there will be a lot of God's creatures you can enjoy while being safe.

All creatures need to eat to survive. Which brings us back to the hawk and the beautiful cardinal. Although it was very upsetting to see a beautiful cardinal being eaten alive by a hawk, the good that came out of it was this: the cardinal's death, though upsetting, led to the hawk's being able to live another day! And maybe his young. And this, my friends, is how death leads to life.

Read other articles by Sandra Polvinale