A few minutes before sunrise Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Whiskey Jacks, and two kinds of Woodpeckers began their day, stuffing themselves with seeds and suet at our feeding station on the deck.
During the next hour the comings and goings of dozens of birds were like waves on the ocean as the sky sparkled with a brilliance only the northern mid-winter sun can shine our way.
The calm was shattered suddenly as an unexpected Blue Jay zoomed out of nowhere, startling four dozen birds into sudden flight. In the confusion of the moment, a tiny Redpoll crashed into the window three feet in front of me and fell immediately into the snow.
I rushed out and carefully plucked the unconscious bundle of fluff from the ground and carried him inside.
In only a few minutes the creature was alert, holding his head up and moving his beak. I named him Wendell.
I placed Wendell on one of my gloves to keep him off the snow, and set him on the step just outside our door where I could watch and protect him from other birds that might have taken advantage of a fresh meal while he was recovering.
In stages over the next 10 minutes Wendell showed increased alertness and movements, and eventually flapped his wings and flew high up into a poplar tree 20 yards away. There he sat, perched on a bare branch, for another half hour.
I didn't see Wendell leave. I turned away, and when I looked again he was gone.