Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring Arrives

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it's almost spring! The calendar confirms it . . . spring will arrive precisely at 1:48 AM EDT Thursday, March 20, 2008.

Spring with color and life and action is on its way. As the earth warms, you can smell it . . . one of the most delightful fragrances of the natural world, the warming of the damp earth.

Down along the banks of most creeks, tributaries, and rivers, shining bright in the midday light, purple violets are peeping through last season's litter. Ferns are uncurling. Pussy willows are budding, swamp willows are putting on mahogany dress and maple trees are tasseled in red and green. Yellow Jessamine is blooming, its sweet fragrance tossed about on warm spring breezes.

The warm wind touches your cheek and tells you spring is here! The sun is bright and cumulus clouds move across the deep blue sky. Chickadees and titmice and Carolina wrens are in an old rotting elm, signing spring and gobbling newly hatched insects. The March sun is a heat lamp for many creatures.

Mockingbirds are signing nuptial songs. A brown thrasher belts out a loud, throaty number from the top of a greening sapling. A spectacular pileated woodpecker cracks the quietness with his raucous and loud "kuk-kuk-kukkuk — kuk-kuk-kuk."

Flocks of pompous migrating robins will leave our lawns and parks to our resident robins weeks ago. Dark-eyed juncos show eagerness to get back to the moss-covered, wind-swept rock outcroppings of the mountains. They packed their gray suits days ago and will leave on the beams of the waxing and waning silvery moon. A remnant of white-throated sparrows will hang around until May. The purple finches that visited off and on since the first snow are gone.

Still with us are the merry little goldfinches, a delight these spring days. They are late nesters, late July and August, and have no thought of becoming bogged down with parental duties at this delightful time of year. They are gay and happy, swarming over feeders and putting on a deeper yellow suit each day. Even the little black hat is beginning to take shape.

We don't have time to regret the leaving of these friends for already purple martins are chuckling around their new homes. Barn swallows are darting under and over bridges, anticipating the mud cradles they will build later in the season.

A first year orchard oriole, with crisp black cravat, announced from a tall sweet gum his arrival from the tropics. The announcement was loud and sweet and short. Then he was off, looking for a site for a swinging apartment which he will build out of slender green grasses.

Yellow-throated warblers will show up on schedule early in March. Rough-winged swallows and fish crows will also be arriving soon.

Be prepared for the vast migration of warblers in April. Millions of these colorful wood imps will move up the countryside all through the days of April.

There's pleasure and excitement awaiting you with bird watching this spring!