SOMETIMES, YOU DON’T have to go very far at all to enjoy the outdoors. Sometimes, you don’t even have to go outdoors to enjoy the outdoors. Sitting next to my living room picture windows, I have been able to see a small piece of the outdoors from the comfort of my recliner.

Since the day we built our house in 1980, we have had bird feeders hanging outside the windows or sitting on the deck railing. Suet bags hang from a huge jack pine at one corner of our deck. When I have been lucky during deer season, rib cages have been hung from pine branches across our driveway. The birds have forever loved those offerings.

Of course, birds aren’t the only visitors who like what we have for them. Flying squirrels have been frequent visitors over the years. Raccoons evidently like to eat black sunflower seeds among their other favorites.

For the first several years living in our house, we were visited by some rather large freeloading friends. As the numbers of busted up bird feeders grew, those big, black, furry critters finally wore out their welcome. Now, come early springtime and well into November, our feeders are safely stored away, waiting for the bears to go “nighty night” for the winter.

There have been various other wild friends who have visited us on occasion as well. One year, a barred owl seemed to take a liking to the tree perches offered at the edge of our lawn. Now, I never saw the bird go after a meal from its perch, but that year, it would for a few weeks light in a pine or oak just before dark. Curiously, it didn’t seem to mind my company if I went out on the deck to talk to it.

Weasels or ermine as they are known in their white winter coat, have come to pay their “how dee doos” on occasion as well. They love suet bags, sometimes much to my chagrin when I have to pick up the shredded remains of one. They are fearless. I like them because when an ermine is around, there are no mice around.

Bald eagles have sometimes stopped by to pay their respects. They like to sit in a very tall Norway pine, from which vantage point I imagine they are watching for an easy meal. Like the owl, I haven’t ever seen them actually go after one.

Unfortunately for the birds, more than one ruffed grouse has chosen to fly into our picture windows over the years. I felt sorry for each one that died doing so, but I have to admit I wasn’t feeling very bad about it when I made sauteed dinner of them, not having to worry about biting into a BB while eating.

Not all of my grouse or 

 friends as I call them, have met an untimely demise. Most years, I’ll have at least a couple spend the winter with us, eating sunflower seeds spilled to the ground by other birds. If they are around, I like to spread seeds on the deck railing for them. They walk along the deck feeding as they go and even if I go outside to talk to them, they aren’t bothered. On occasion, I’ve even had them pick sunflower seeds off the toes of my boots while I stood there talking to them.

Back in the early days of living in our new house, we had a far larger collection of songbirds at the feeders than we do now. Tons of pine siskins, goldfinches, purple finches, evening, pine and rose-breasted grosbeaks, among others, used to visit us. Now, those species are almost nonexistent by us. I miss seeing the never-ending jousting and fighting for seeds that some of them, especially siskins and evening grosbeaks, did while trying to fit 25 or so of themselves at a time on two smallish feeders.

These days, our frequent visitors are mostly chickadees, white- and rose-breasted nuthatches, and several blue jays. Downy, hairy and pileated woodpeckers do their best work at our suet bags.

And then, there are the squirrels. We used to like to watch grays and blacks get in the tray feeders I had on racks at windowsill level, getting great entertainment for free as they chased and battled each other for prime feeder locations.

Then, along came an excitable lab named Gordie who nearly tips over a large sofa trying to fly over it and through the window whenever the squirrels came to visit. With feeders now on extended arm hangers where squirrels can’t reach them, we’ve mostly lost their company.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the deer that like to torture me each summer as I battle them on a daily basis for exclusive rights to my flower beds? Or the turkeys who like to browse on sunflower seeds on the ground under the deck? One gobbler, in particular, almost made me change my shorts one day when I opened the basement door to come face to face with him at a range of about 2 feet. I think he may have been looking to change his shorts as well as he hightailed it down the driveway.

Anyway, as I sit here today, on a cloudy winter day, I am alternately watching my birds and snoozing in my recliner.

It’s a good way to enjoy the outdoors.