A few of my favorite guests
I am not much of a gardener. If dandelions and clover ever become coveted flowers, I may have a chance at making the cover of Country Gardens, but until then I will be happy to I do not live anywhere with tickets for weeds. If you were to close your eyes for a few moments, however, you might notice another aspect of our backyard that is not immediately noticeable. Especially if you are the type that would fret over my sickly looking plants.

Our yard is always alive with the sound of music: the melody of the cardinal, the raucous cry of the jay, the nasal twack of the nuthatch and the gurgling of the brown-headed cowbird. Now that our town is covered in a thick blanket of snow, my gardening is on equal footing with the green thumbs I am surrounded by. And I dare say my yard could compete with the best of them.

Full of sound, color and striking contrast, my winter birds have again captured my full attention. Here are a few of my favorite photos taken over the last couple of days:

The downy woodpecker. This young lady is a frequent visitor and is quite tame. She will hang on her suet feeder here and watch me fill the other feeders so long as I move slowly.

The white-crowned sparrow. These guys come occasionally throughout the year, but are frequent visitors in the winter. There is also a tan morph which I saw for the first time this year. Or at least I knew what I was seeing for the first time this year. The white stripe on the head of the white variation is striking.

The American tree sparrow. He is quite a stunning little sparrow, I think. And to know he flew all the way from the northernmost regions of the continent to grace my yard this winter!

The Harris' sparrow. Native to the tundra, these birds winter in the central part of the country. They may be found in South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Northern Texas and are rarely seen outside this central band of states.

The dark-eyed junco. This is my favorite winter visitor. He is rather dull on your average winter day here in Nebraska, but when there is snow, the contrast is striking. They are not shy and will continue to feed while I go outside to take pictures. They have a beautiful, soft little call that fills my yard with its chatter. They also arrive in large flocks. We counted thirty yesterday.

It is always amazing to me how aware the birds are of inclement weather. The feeders become incredibly busy just before snow and sharp drops in temperature. I didn't need the weather man to know we were in for some winter weather this weekend!