Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online

I feed a lot of birds and squirrels. This winter, with it being so cold and all, I was putting out two quarts of food twice a day, which adds up in a hurry. But it was also gone within hours, so obviously it wasn’t being wasted. I saw wrens and sparrows and juncos and finches, many cardinals and jays, lots of doves, an occasional crow, a starling once in a while. I had three sorts of woodpeckers, in varying sizes. Chickadees. Buntings.

And, oh my god, squirrels. Injured squirrels that I knew would not make it (I can hear owls in my neighborhood sometimes; a Cooper’s hawk flies over several times a day), but at least had a sheltered, quiet place for food and water, for a little while. Squirrels so young that their marvelous tails had not filled in yet, so that they looked like marmosets. A pregnant momma squirrel who would waddle across the patio and then ate with absolute focus for twenty minutes. Bickering squirrels, squirrels that ran upside-down along branches for the fun of it, squirrels that dragged their tails along the ground or curled them tight against their backs.

And now the grackles. I made it through most of the winter before they discovered me; now they descend three times a day, dozens and dozens of grackles, greedy as eight-year-olds at a birthday party, loud as eight-year-olds after the sugar rush has hit. The other birds leave, and even squirrels eventually get edged away from the food. The only good thing about the grackle hordes is that they eventually leave. The others return, but, sadly, to emptied food trays.

It’s spring now, so I would be lightening up on the food in any case: not so many people depend on me for survival when there are seeds and insects everywhere. And I am moving to a house half a mile away in July, so I will be tapering off altogether over the next three months. I will miss all these little guys, but I admit, I do hope the grackles don’t find my new place right away.