THE RUSH OF SPRING
Tree buds bursting.
Garden needs tilling.
It happens every year:
We’re so busy trying to savor the arrival of spring that we can get swept away by the avalanche of changes that highlight March, April, and May.
When a red-winged blackbird arrived in early March, we figured that was just a hint of the gradual retreat of winter and the subtle onset of spring. But March 2012 made up its own calendar.
Turkey vultures began soaring northward on the warm winds. Balmy evenings set off the “sky dance” of the woodcocks. Spring peepers convened an evening chorus.
When the crocuses bloomed, the song sparrows cheerily announced their return, the comma butterflies darted about, and wooly bear caterpillars scurried across the road – all by mid-March – I began to fear sensory overload.
The morning after the first March thunderstorm, the tom turkeys responded with thunder of their own: gobbling that reverberated through the woods from dawn until late morning. Within a day or two, the first squeaky cowbirds tried to stake out territories. I much preferred the distinct, wild, remote purring of the sandhill cranes that soared over unseen in the dusk.
Woodland wildflowers could not suppress their need to bloom before the tree canopy grows too dense. Spring beauties, hepaticas, bloodroots, bellworts, Jack-in-the-pulpits, anemones, buttercups, wild ginger, bishop’s cap, dogtooth violets – and a host of others – beautified the awakening forest. Of course, some less attractive critters haunted the forest, too. Every hike was followed by a careful search for hitch-hiking deer ticks.
Each day brought a new, yet familiar, reminder of Nature’s cycle. The phoebe busily tidied up its family’s traditional nest site under the eave. The lilacs burst into sweet bloom several weeks early – but managed to survive the inevitable frost. Three pairs of bluebirds reached a truce, so each couple could claim their own box and begin laying.
“Drink your tea!” proclaimed the towhee. The brown thrasher jabbered tirelessly from its hidden perch in the pale-green first leaves on a boxelder.
Moths flittered at the window at dusk. June (?) bugs started buzzing in late April, mocking their own name. Buck deer, with antlers still just stubs of velvet, already have begun sparring for rights to next fall’s harems.
And the celebration continues! Baby bluebirds are nearly ready to fledge. Hummingbirds have returned – trusting that the sugar-water feeder would be waiting for them. The oriole quickly found its dish of grape jelly, too.
The rose-breasted grosbeaks immediately homed in on the sunflower seeds. But they have to share with the red-bellied woodpeckers, which stop regularly to fill their beaks and then fly away – probably to a nest of hungry youngsters.
A lone yellow-rump foretells the warbler migration, golden Alexander signals the awakening of the prairie, the first fawns should venture out soon.
It will be a never-ending show, from now until the snow flies once again.