This is the lean time of year – and – I’m not talking about the economy or Lent, but about the last few weeks before Spring arrives, when there is very little left in the way of natural food. Without our offerings the winter residents and the returning migrants would be hard-pressed to make a living. Most of the seeds are long gone, ditto the berries, the insects are still pupating and the ground, at least, where I live, snow covered once again. This is the time of year when I fret the most; for the black bears will soon shake the last of winter’s snow from their thick pelts before lumbering to their feet and being ravenous from slumber, lift their quivering noses to follow the faint whiff of agricultural bounty. I will continue to feed the birds until the bears take down the feeders the first time. After that, I will throw a few hands-full of seeds on the ground before work to maintain the lives that have come to depend on me all winter. This time of year is the hardest for us all: birds and beast and man alike.