The song sparrow in the Ohio dooryard in December has become a winter bird inadvertently: "his inner signal (to migrate) had not functioned." Unlike the other creatures in this series, he is an exception, and he differs from them also in harkening to the presence of people: the upstairs alarm clock rouses him, the emergence of the man of the house prompts him to add his droppings to the pile below. Contrasting with the precision of his habits are the randomness of his activities, a matter of watching a woodpecker or playing with juncos. There is less urgency here, and the focus is diffused, shifting between the life story of a song sparrow (e.g. contending earlier with a catbird that would sneak eggs into his nest) and the pursuits of any winter bird. The climax, however, catches you up: literally "scared stiff" by the cat locked out only a leap from his perch, the sparrow stays awake all night, protected by his stillness but using up energy--and losing weight--on account of his fright. Other crises impend yet the longest day has passed and a clock in his body promises the return of spring. Looser and less obviously useful than some of its predecessors, this has nevertheless a unique lesson: out of his element the sparrow retains his sense of the seasonal cycle.