The Great Outdoors


I came to my desk to write this morning without a subject in mind. That’s not unusual. I’d think of something. The birds flying back and forth to the feeder outside the window beyond my computer would give me an idea. They often have.

The birds didn’t help this morning however. Here I’ve sat, alternately staring at my computer screen and out the window behind it, watching the birds.

The birds flying back and forth to the feeder are common, the birds I see at the feeder almost every day. There are house sparrows and mourning doves, a cardinal, two blue jays, a black-capped chickadee, a white-breasted nuthatch, a downy woodpecker, two tufted titmice. I’ve written about all of them, several more than once. They haven’t given me any ideas.

Two male red-winged blackbirds flew in and landed on the feeder a few minutes ago. Male redwings at a bird feeder in northern Indiana in December would have been a good subject a few years ago. Not anymore. I see male redwings every day except the most stormy. I saw male redwings at my bird feeder every day last winter, as far as I remember, and the winter before. I’ve seen as many as five male redwings at the feeder recently.

A female redwing at my feeder now would be something else. While more and more male redwings no longer migrate south in the fall, or so it seems, females still must migrate. At least, they disappear as the days get shorter.

My thoughts wandered. A phrase from a song that was popular when I was young came to mind. “I go to the woods.” Is my subconscious giving me an idea. Is it suggesting I should go to a woods where I’ll see birds that I won’t see at my bird feeder? Wild turkeys, for example, either in the woods or in a field at the edge of the woods. I might see crossbills in a woods. Crossbills are rare winter visitors to Indiana. I’ve only seen them in Indiana two or three times, each time when I was walking in a woods.

I might see other animals, deer maybe. Fawns would have lost their spots and be nearly as big as their mothers now. Stags would have antlers. But I don’t have to go to a woods to see deer. I see them in the field across the road and crossing the road when I’m out driving.

I might see a raccoon. But I saw a ‘coon just a few days ago. It was one on a bird feeder on the other side of the house. There were three skunks on the ground under that feeder recently also. I’ve also seen ‘coons and skunks and opossums along roads recently, most of them dead, lying in the road or along the side. I might see a beaver or an otter if I went walking on a trail through a woods along a lake or river. I’ve seen both in the water and on the shore along trails in Chain O’ Lakes State Park.

I could write about fall color. But I don’t have to go out to see fall color. I see it from my window. The color doesn’t seem as bright this fall. And there isn’t as much of it. Though we’ve only had frost two or three mornings this fall, many leaves have already fallen. Our lawn is littered with them.

It’s been two hours since I sat down at my desk. Two hours since I sat down to write, and the screen of my computer is still blank except for the heading for an article.

I really should go out, go driving or walking, look for something different. But I won’t go now. While I’ve been sitting here the sky has gotten darker and now it’s starting to rain…

Neil A. Case

Neil A. Case

I have always liked the outdoors and birds and am a conservationist and an environmentalist. I don't write specifically about conservation but mix my opinion in with stories about a bird, a mammal, a plant or other outdoor subject. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer