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The unassuming white-throated sparrow is well camouflaged in its preferred brushy habitat. / Photo by Alex Vargas

Is it really 2020 already?

This new year snuck up on me. I've just been so busy — distracted, really — counting the birds at my feeder.

In early December, I moved from Chattanooga to an off-the-grid cabin in Polk County. Our property is wooded with tall oaks and hickories, which were surprisingly silent at first, save for the occasional drumming of a pileated woodpecker.

So, I strung up feeders, sprinkled the ground with sunflower seeds and waited for the songbirds to arrive.

The first were the eastern towhees. Next came the tufted titmice followed by cardinals, Carolina wrens and Carolina chickadees, the most curious of the bunch. When I step outside to refill the feeders, the others scatter, while the chickadee watches inquisitively, perched just feet away.

By far, though, my greatest distraction has been the sparrow. There are a half-dozen common sparrow species in East Tennessee, all somewhat similar in size and color. Last week, I lost hours each day, moving from window to window, Sibley's field guide in hand. Finally, I had studied the stocky, reddish-brown bird long enough to identify it as a white-throated sparrow.

Victoriously, I added its name to my list, and just like that, it was 2020.

So here I am, having not prepared with parties or resolutions, and more content than I've ever been.

From my backyard to yours, wishing you a new year filled with natural wonders.

Sunny Montgomery

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Sunny Montgomery
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