Christmas tradition: The Morning of Christmas

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Every December I get requests to reprint my take-off of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, first published in 1988. Read it aloud to the kids after opening presents.

Merry Christmas!

The Morning of Christmas

(with apologies to Clement C. Moore)

‘Twas the morning of Christmas,

And all ‘round the house,

The feeders were empty,

Not enough for a mouse.

Each feeder was hung

From its perch with great care,

But on this frosty morning,

The cupboards were bare.

Tubes, trays and suet bags…

Too many to mention.

In the Christmas Eve rush

They’d escaped my attention.

The rising sun on the breast of the new fallen snow,

Accented the vacuum in the feeders below.

I couldn’t believe it, I’d stayed up too late.

I’d forgotten my friends on this most special date.

A ravenous flock perched in dawn’s early light,

Reminding me clearly of last night’s oversight.

Impatient, they perched in an old apple tree,

Famished and anxious, some scolded me.

Ashamed and embarrassed, I flew down the stairs,

I whistled and shouted like a big angry bear.

“Now Linda, now Nora, and Emma, you too.

We’ve got empty feeders, there’s so much to do!”

I spoke no more words, we all went to work,

We filled every feeder, I’d been a real jerk.

The birds quickly forgave me and flocked to the food,

I knew in moment, they’d lost their foul mood.

Cardinals and grosbeaks and nuthatches, too,

Were first to arrive at my backyard bird zoo.

The sunflower seed disappeared with great speed,

I smiled contentedly, I’d fixed my misdeed.

Then finches and siskins sought the feeder with thistle,

They flew so intently, each looked like a missile.

Soon sparrows and juncos ventured onto the tray,

Hungrily joining the late breakfast fray.

Even the water dish pulled in a crowd,

The titmice and chickadees were certainly loud.

When woodpeckers finally found the fresh suet,

We were completely forgiven, the whole family knew it.

I began to feel better, I’d made up for my goof,

When suddenly a voice caught my ear from the roof.

(You may not believe this, but I swear it’s the truth.)

From a perch at the top, sang a sassy Blue Jay,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good day!”

The End

* * *

Extra tips: This suet recipe comes from Alabama birder, Martha Sargent. It is a “No-melt, All-season Peanut Butter Suet,” and woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and blue jays love it.

Ingredients:

one cup crunchy peanut butter

two cups “quick cook” oats

two cups cornmeal

one cup lard (no substitutes here)

one cup white flour

one-third cup sugar

Feel free to experiment by adding raisins, sunflower kernels, and nut meats.

Melt lard and peanut butter over low heat, then stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into square or rectangular cake pan about 1-1/2 inches thick. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to allow suet to harden a bit, then cut blocks to size to fit your suet basket, separate blocks with wax paper, and store in freezer in plastic bags.

* * *

Finally, after the holidays, resist the urge to trash your old Christmas tree. Instead, place it under a bird feeder. Tie it down so it doesn’t blow all over the yard on windy days. Or tie several together.

Old Christmas trees provide ground feeding birds protective cover from snow and wind and safe haven from bird-eating hawks and feral cats.

Or go one step further and collect discarded Christmas trees from neighbors and unsold trees from dealers and build a brush pile near the feeders.

Then cast white millet and sunflower seeds under the outer branches for a cheap, safe bird feeder.

Old Christmas trees also make great backgrounds for photographs. I pick the fullest trees and tie them to the poles that hold my feeders. When I take photos of birds at the feeders, the green background looks lush and natural.

By prefocusing a telephoto lens on an individual branch, I get full frame portraits from the comfort of my office that look as if they were shot in the woods.

* * *

Correction: Last week I listed a web address for getting more information about the snowy owl invasion. The correct address is www.ebird.org, not .net.

About the Author

Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. Send questions and comments to scottshalaway@gmail.com. You can also visit his Web site, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com. More Stories by Scott Shalaway

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