Spring is settling in here quite nicely as we march on toward May. Perhaps a little too nicely, I had feared. The numbers registering on the thermometer have risen to summer-like levels on more than one occasion, making me wonder if we're just going to skip over spring entirely. That happened a few years back. This past weekend came to us with highs in the upper 50's, though, so I guess spring still has a bit of a hold on us, and we surely haven't said good-bye to nighttime frost yet. That just wouldn't be right.
Right now we are in "The Season of Explosion." One day you go out and don't see much. The next day you go out and -POOF-! There's suddenly so much color. And the next day -POOF!- again, more color. It just keeps going and going. We'll reach a saturation point eventually, but for now, I'm enjoying the explosions and the prospect of new beauty every day.
While beauty abounds, this time of year does have its challenges. Even the process of planting flowers can take on a life all its own. All it takes is one new or unfamiliar bird sound to make me drop my spade and forget all about the planting. My attention shifts entirely to craning my neck and locating the bird in question. Even though the trees are only just barely leafed out, birds that like to flit about high in the tippy-tops of the trees are still a challenge to find. At least I'm finally learning to bring my binoculars out with me when I step outside, because I know I will need them.
The Buckeye trees, of which we have many on our property, have already put out their five-fingered leaves and are giving us a nice taste of the dappled sunlight that will reach us once all the leaves are out. It's a slow encroachment, but day by day, tree by tree, our house will become enrobed by an array of green finery.
I'm already looking forward to all the baby birds that will be fledging over the next few months. The Phoebe nest on the side of our house has been attended by a very devoted mother for the last few weeks. Any day now I expect to start hearing some peeps from that nest. A pair of Starlings have built themselves a nest in a roost box we put up years ago, an avian dwelling that so far as we can tell no one has ever used since we installed it. A pair of Bluebirds has occupied one of the 3 nest boxes across the road, and there were 4 eggs in it at last count.
Male Bluebird with a fresh lunchtime delivery for babies, May 7, 2006
And I finally caught sight of a pair of Mourning Doves getting a quickie in Sunday afternoon. They've been flying about and sitting on branches as pairs for weeks, so I imagined I would catch them in the act at some point. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are buzzing about (and quite loudly at that) every day in the woods - I can only hope for a glimpse at one of their nests. And the Brown Thrasher sings boldly every morning and evening from the edge of the woods across the road; his ever-changing pattern of double calls is so intriguing to me. If I'm lucky, I'll spy one of their nests just at the edge of the shrub line like I did several years ago.
Brown Thrasher on the nest, April 26, 2007
Oh, and the woodpeckers - mostly Downys, but also Hairys and Red-bellieds - I can't wait to see their little ones come to the suet feeders, just like they do every summer.
Male Downy Woodpecker feeding one fledgling while another waits in the wings, June 11, 2006. The fledglings crack me up when they perch right on the suet feeder and beg and beg, refusing to feed themselves, which is what's happening here.
Of course, in addition to hoping to catch a glimpse of some nests or young birds, I'm just enjoying the sound of migrants and summer residents as they make their way north for the warm months. A Hermit Thrush stopped me in my tracks one morning as I was getting ready for work. I've never heard one of them on our property before, and, sadly, I haven't heard it since that morning. I anxiously await the return of its cousin, the Wood Thrush. Over the weekend I heard the White-eyed Vireo talking about pick up the beer tab, chick, and a Blue-winged Warbler put its fingers up to its ears, waggled them around, inhaled loudly, and made a big raspberry noise (that's just what their beee-buzzz voicing sounds like to me).
Once the birds start to migrate in and the woods start to explode, the phrase "I'm going for a walk in the woods," has to be taken rather loosely. It's not so much a walk as a dawdle, but the dawdle has a purpose. For example, I may end up backtracking 50 feet because I'm trying to find a bird that keeps flying away. Or I MUST stop to look at every different wildflower, checking it against the catalog in my brain - "Ooh, I don't know this one. I'll have to look it up when I get back to the house." But who knows how long it will be before I get back to the house. When the weather is good, everything about the outdoors begs to be soaked in through every available sense. Oh how I wish I could spend all day, every day, out and about, observing and noticing. Sigh.