Saturday, February 12, 2011
The Beginning of the End (of winter)!
Yesterday, my husband brought my attention to dozens of American Robins roosting in trees around campus as we drove our buses. I looked up to where he'd pointed as we passed--me turning into a drive, and he turning out--and I saw them. Roosting high in a locust tree. And then in around this turn-around, there are crab apple trees and there they were nibbling on the frozen, shriveled up crab apples. Dozens of them were in different trees, some flying down to the stream to get a drink.
The other day I saw Cedar Wax Wings, and one robin doing exactly the same thing along my route. I knew that the beginnings of spring had been felt by these feathered friends. And that is what the month of February is all about. The awakenings of spring in the northern Midwest.
Contrary to belief, the American Robin does not fly south for the winter. They are a hardy bird and can withstand very cold temperatures. What they actually do is congregate en mass inside forests, and where they can feed on berries and yes, crab apples that have dried up. We see them appear on our lawns, and think that this means spring is here. The robins already know this. And for these guys to come out with the two feet of snow still on the ground does say something about our coming out of the bitter cold and finally seeing an up-swing of temperatures. This coming week we will see the thirties, and even a 40 degree mark. By golly, we'll think it's down right hot out!
My husband has been feeding the birds in our backyard this past week. Well, everyone is showing up, of course. The squirrels are finding the peanuts, and so are the Jays, and I think everyone is happy, now. The blast of sub-zero temperatures was really horrible, and we went and bought a large bag of seed for both song birds, cardinals and the other critters who needed the food to stay warm through this. It is, after all, National Bird Feeding Month.
Now, the birds who actually do tell me that winter is over are the red wings and grackles. The red wing males--black birds the size of a robin with red epaulets on their shoulders--are the real call of spring. When they come around, you know it because they will sit up high in large groups singing--the sound will fill the air, and it makes my heart jump for joy.
Grackles are a longer, larger bird, the size of an oriole. They have iridescent feathers, very long tails, and beaks, and yellow eyes. When they come to patrol the ground for food, then you know Spring is here to stay. I look forward to seeing all these guys soon. The earliest I have seen these birds has been in February of 1999, when we had 70 degrees and stayed warm all winter. That was an odd year to be sure.
But we will see if the groundhog theory holds true. He did not see his shadow--in fact they had to cancel the up-rooting of this fellow because of the blizzard! So, let us put it to the test:Spring comes early?