Every year, late March, starting at dawn, the cardinal thumps against our basement window, reminding me of a bored bear I saw long ago in a too-small cage–that repetitious sway and stomp–poor thing. But the bird’s unfettered and the window’s behind a large bush, a spindle tree we planted too close to the house–what’s driving that bird? Territoriality? We think perhaps it sees its reflection, so we’ve tried bird scare tape, opening the window, curtaining. Some years there are nests in that bush, but it’s never been cardinals nesting there. Thunk! Thunk!
My son used to stay up playing League of Legends until 3 am in that room, only to be awakened at 5:45 with irritating regularity by “Morning Bird.” He has left the nest, but the bird or its genetically programmed-to-thunk offspring returns annually. So it must be Spring.
Finally we got some good rain, about 3″, but the feeder stream behind our property lies pretty low and swampy after a mostly snowless winter and a dry autumn. Times have been when that stream flowed four feet deeper, rushing to meet Saucon Creek and head to the Lehigh River basin. I walked there this morning looking for frog eggs and salamanders, found two of the latter in a vernal pool where the skunk cabbage drills up from the swamp. Skunk cabbage doesn’t have much of a reputation for beauty but looks lovely with the sun behind its unfurling leaves.
I’m not a birder and can only identify about 25 birds by sight, fewer by sound. I noted mourning doves, mockingbirds and turkey buzzards, robins and redwings as I headed toward the creek. I have loaded Cornell’s “Merlin” bird app on my phone, though, and spent some quiet time sitting back on my heels in the sunshine while recording birdsong. The field sparrows weren’t in the field as yet, but other sparrows were calling: white-throated, song, and house sparrows (the house sparrows love to hide in the thick English ivy bush near the back of our house). Cardinals, of course, house finches, American crow, bluejay, red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, tufted titmouse. Deeper in the woods, the white-breasted nuthatch got noisy, and an Eastern phoebe scolded me quite insistently from a beech tree. I was scouting around the largest beeches to see if I could find any dry beechdrop stems, but likely these trees aren’t quite old enough for beechdrops. I was happy to find some partridge-berry leaves, though; ten days ago, when my husband mowed the meadow, he saw a bobwhite–and left some cover standing for it.
I heard the Carolina wren as “Merlin” identified it, and was interested to note the bird app also recorded the presence of black-capped chickadee, bluebird, and Eastern towhee. It’s a bit early for towhees, but I’ve seen them here in past years, usually in April. And just before this recent rainstorm, I spied a killdeer in the meadow. I feel like an amateur naturalist! Anyway, forsythia are blooming. Even if we get more cold spells, I call Spring as having sprung.
By 10 am I was assessing the vegetable patch, where I moved a couple of perennial herbs and tore out as much shotweed as I could find. Some winter weeds can stay in the soil for later season removal, but shotweed flowers early, bolts fast, and sends out thousands of seeds so effectively that winter weeding is essential. I can’t keep it out of my lawn, but I can keep it under control in the garden. Redwings, robins, and woodpeckers kept up their calling while I worked. Good to get sun on my hair and dirt under my nails–feels like the first real spring day.