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BARTELSO – It was mid-February, and the woods were barren.

On the other hand, it was a cool, calm, sunny afternoon. The winter birds buzzed around, squawking and frequently visiting the feeders strung up around the family cabin.

All the familiar faces were there. A red-headed woodpecker chattered at the top of a tree. White-breasted nuthatches flitted from tree to tree, occasionally making a gravity-defying headlong rush down a tree.

Chickadees did their nervous-nelly routine: flying from branch to branch, never sitting for more than a few seconds. Finally, after summoning all their courage, they would bolt to a feeder, grabbing a lone sunflower seed before beating a hasty retreat.

Then, there was the tufted titmouse. They seemed to be everywhere, standing in line in the nearby oaks and hickories, awaiting their turn at one of several feeders.

Occasionally, a downy woodpecker hung upside down on one of the feeders, turning an afternoon snack into an acrobatic feat worthy of Cirque de Soleil.

But, the real treasures were the red-bellied woodpeckers. Unlike their red-headed cousins, the red-bellies, easily the largest bird to light on the feeders, were anything but shy. However, they rarely tarried at the feeders, preferring to grab a few seeds and then bolt off to the safety of a hickory branch.

After a morning of viewing and photographing birds at nearby Hazlet State Park, just watching the bird activity was entertaining and relaxing.

Then, another option became evident — refill the feeders and use the car as a blind.

The accompanying photos are the result of 90 minutes parked little more than arm’s length from a feeder in the dying sunlight of a mid-February afternoon.


On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​


Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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