Tuesday, April 28, 2009

All of a Sudden

Though spring has been emerging and blooming steadily for some weeks, it finally burst upon me fully today. Early this morning — 4:30! — I was woken by the song of the House Wren in our back yard, a cheerfully optimistic sound I look forward to each year. He must have just returned from his southern sojourn yesterday, or perhaps overnight. The House Wrens nest on the edge of our yard; I never tire of the bubbling cascade of his song. It’s like an inexhaustible champagne fountain. I have not recently seen the Carolina Wrens that came to our feeders all winter. Last year, they nested nearby and I saw them every day during the summer. Perhaps they’re busy nest-building and will be more active later.

This morning on my way to the office (!) I stopped at one of my favorite birding spots, a museum that has extensive property, both landscaped and natural. I parked by the little pond, where forest, swamp, meadow, and lawn areas come together, producing a good mix of birds. I saw Palm Warblers there last week; today Black and White Warblers were scaling the trunks of the shagbark hickories, looking for all the world like zebra-striped Nuthatches. I saw my first-of-year Yellow-Rumped Warbler, too, a bird that always makes me think of Acadia, where we see so many of them during the summer. Bluebirds were everywhere, and I saw one pair already feeding young. Another Bluebird pair seems to have appropriated a nest box that had initially been claimed by a pair of Tree Swallows.

At the pond, a pair of Canada Geese fed quietly together; they became alert when a pair of Wood Ducks splashed in. Red-Winged Blackbirds, Robins, and a noisy Mockingbird dotted the trees at the water’s edge; some painted turtles were hauled out on the muddy bank to catch the early sun. I didn't see either of the resident Red-Tailed Hawks that patrol the hillside, but I did have a chance the other day to get a long look at a Sharp-Shinned Hawk preening and resting. And two Turkey Vultures sailed overhead; they are among the most buoyant and graceful of our birds.

I could hear call notes of many birds as they passed over and around me. One in particular caught my ear: Pik, pik – the call-note of the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, one of our most beautiful birds and one of the best songsters in our region. I waited…and there it was, high in an oak tree just beginning to leaf out. Bright black, brighter white, and the most lovely rose-red on its upper breast and under the wings. He gave a brief phrase or two of that cool, clear warble, but he was more intent on looking for caterpillars, as he must have been hungry after his long migratory flight. We’ve had a pair of Grosbeaks nest in or near our yard for the past two years…hope they return again.

Spring doesn’t really arrive, though, until I spot my first Northern Oriole. And when I pulled into my office (!) parking space, there he was in the maple tree. What a bird! His song is just delightful, a jaunty whistle as bright and memorable as his black and fluorescent orange plumage.

All of a sudden, it’s spring.

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