While most of us are tiredly digging out from the most recent blanket of snow and watching the ice retreat from our driveways again, Nature is smugly telling us that Spring is Here! Driving by the remnants of last summer’s cornfield on a nearby farm, we counted 60 Wild Turkeys foraging through the stubble. With the window down, we could hear the male gobblers “gobble-obble-obble-obble-obble”ing to each other and watched them asserting themselves, jockeying for position in the pecking order to impress the best hen. At our bird-feeders we are noticing a subtle change in the plumage of some birds. The male American Goldfinches are beginning to show a feather of bright gold here and there. The heads of the Male House Finches are slowly turning redder, as if they are embarrassed at eating so much of our seed. For two days we noticed one male Goldfinch with a molted feather sticking wildly askew from his head…molted but not yet dropped. And American Robins…I know some of them remain all winter, but somehow they have stayed hidden…until now. In the sugar bush where harvesters of the transparent liquid which will become delicious golden maple syrup have been sitting idle, bemoaning the continued cold of the “endless” winter, they will soon discover they can’t keep up with the flow as this week’s 50 degree days coax the sap to rise in the Maple trees.
As a bird bander and Project FeederWatch counter I am watching our cold weather friends with new thoughts. When will I see the first migrating bird making a rest stop at our feeders? Is this the last day I will see American Tree Sparrows? How long will the Dark-eyed Juncos stay this year? When will our winter Goldfinches leave and the first wave of migrating beauties hit the mist nets? How could it be that late with the sun still so high…dinner is really going to be late today.
Perhaps the most telling sign of Spring is that my inner urge to plan this year’s garden has now become an undeniable compulsion. While I watch the feeders I must also be scanning seed catalogs. Writing down numbers of birds will alternate with drawing plans for plant placement in the soil which has still been alive, deep down, all winter. But now the life energy will push to the surface and foster food and “weeds” alike to support the summer activities of Nature. SPRING IS HERE!