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Happy New Year (and counting the days until spring)

A Carolina wren has been keeping me "warm" this winter as it visits the feeders regularly.

It even woke me up one morning with its loud "tea kettle" call outside the bedroom window. I would have been more impressed if it were announcing that the coffee was brewed — especially at such an early hour — but it was quite a treat to hear that cheery sound during the bitter cold month of January.

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January, 2015! Can you believe it's been almost three weeks since we welcomed in a new year?

Spring is only 60 days from today; no wonder the sprite little wren sounded so exuberant. I like to think that it continues to roost at night in the wreath next to the door we use regularly—in the nest it raised a family in last summer. I wonder if it roosts alone or invites company for warmth.

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In just a few weeks it will be busy with courtship and nesting and raising another family.

Will it use the old nest or build a new one? My guess is that the pair will insist on a new nest that they will tuck away in some creative hiding place.

One year, a pair of Carolina wrens built their nest inside an old helmet that was stored in our dilapidated, doorless shed. Both the helmet and the shed have been gone for years … but happily, the Carolina wrens continue to hang out here.

It seems that the birds in general have been making themselves scarce around our backyard in recent weeks. They come but not in great numbers, and it is disappointing. Perhaps they are still mad that we went away for a week over the holidays, and although they had a hearty Christmas offering, the feeders were empty for the arrival of the New Year.

What's the point of holding a grudge? The feeders are full now and have been through the past two snowstorms.

The Carolina wren doesn't mind as it is making out like a bandit. (Looks sort of like one, too with its white eyebrow stripes!) With little to no competition, it has hardly made a dent in two suet cakes that have been hanging for three days in a special feeder — not even the squirrels are horning in.

The usual avian visitors stop by from time to time throughout the day. Juncos and white-throated sparrows prefer foraging on the ground and scratch at the garden bed tossing up scattered seeds and other tidbits. Chickadees and tufted titmice take turns grabbing sunflower seeds from a feeder and then flying off to crack them open in solitude. A few house finches and goldfinches (wearing their olive green winter garb) perch on the tube feeders and dine together in harmony.

Few cardinals have made an appearance in the past week, and I miss seeing them. The rich red of the male cardinals, when they show up, provides a bright contrast against the dull winter landscape. The soft taupe brown of the female cardinals offers a feeling of warmth against the chill of the season.

With two more months of winter to go, I'm betting that there's a lot more birdseed to be dished out and consumed by our feathered friends before they become distracted by the antics and activities of springtime.

The Carroll County Bird Club held their annual Winter Bird Count yesterday. Birders from around the county were out in the field, each covering a specific territory, to identify bird species that reside in our region during the winter months. Stay tuned for results of the count once the numbers have been tallied.

And stay warm, if you can, while we live with a few more weeks of winter.

Sue Yingling is a Times outdoors writer. Her column appears every other Sunday. Reach her at 410-857-7896 or sports@carrollcountytimes.com.

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