I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that my absolute favorite thing about our apartment is the view from my office window. And it's not a view of open sky and steep hills, either -- that's what you see when you look out our other windows -- it's a view directly into a tree that stands a few feet from the window and exactly at eye level, a tree that just happens to be a Red Cedar (also called a Red Juniper, Juniperus virginiana).
This tree is magical. Its dense, scaly, evergreen leaves provide shelter for any creature who needs it, and because it's so near our window, that means we get to see some cool animals up close. (This tree has been featured in the background of some of my posts already, in its capacity as a perch for baby Tufted Titmice, hot House Sparrows, and other assorted creatures.) And in the fall (i.e. right about now), it produces a bonus treat: juicy flesh-covered cones that look like small blue berries, and which the animals -- especially the birds -- just love.
The female Northern Cardinal in the picture above was snacking on the Red Cedar's offering this morning, mashing up the cones' pulp in her big beak, and getting not a little messy in the process (pretty girl, wash your face!):
Last week, a few American Robins stopped by for a meal -- a sleek adult:
And a gangly juvenile or two:
I even saw one of our local Gray Squirrels munching on the cones a couple of days ago -- our squirrels seem to prefer maple seeds, but perhaps the Red Cedar adds some nice variety to their diet:
Last year, this tree produced a bumper crop, with little blue spheres clustered on every branch tip, and we got long visits from very happy flocks of Cedar Waxwings and Yellow-rumped Warblers as a result. This years bounty is much more tame, but still, the cones are just sitting there waiting to be eaten, and I'll be watching to see which animals stop by to oblige!
To the person who decided, long ago, to plant this tree outside our window: Thank you!
At one point in my photo shoot with the female Northern Cardinal, she shook her head, and I snapped a picture at just exactly the wrong moment. Here's the semi-disturbing result:
She's fine, I promise!