What began as eight pine siskins jockeying for position on the thistle feeder when I sat down at the kitchen table with my coffee has swelled to over forty of the gregarious little birds retreating to the top of a nearby persimmon tree as I rise for a refill. Still bare of leaves, the crown of the fifty foot tall tree makes for a perfect spot to estimate (or even count outright if they stay still enough long enough) the size of the flock. I do not hear the bugle that rally back, but as one they swoop–a half dozen landing on the thistle feeder, a couple on the sunflower tube, the rest joining a pair of purple finches, a chipping sparrow, a handful of juncos, and one cardinal on the ground below. Somewhere nearby, a song sparrow sings his delight for this clear early spring morning. As I scan the multitude in the grass, a titmouse calls from the top of the tree and four goldfinches enter the scene. Eight o’clock, March 25th.
It is officially less than a week past the equinox, but my spring began three weeks ago on the evening of the first day of March when chorus frogs began their celebration of spring, sun, and sex. This morning, as I lay awake in bed before the sun, spring peepers are joining the chorus that reaches me through an open window. I often hear people speak of the peepers as the the announcement of spring but, at least in my pond, they are second fiddle.
Back in the kitchen, something spooks the mixed flock and no sooner than they dispersed, the song sparrow slipped in silently to take her place to dine alone among the scattered mixed seed beneath the feeders…. for a moment.
Thirty yards north of the feeders, through the dense foliage, I see the dark silhouettes of a flock of waxwings scouring the tree of berries. Three, four, and five at a time they drop to the ground beneath to eat the berries that have fallen. Unfortunately, the cameras at my disposal do not possess enough telephoto to capture these little works of art, but I stand and gaze through the binoculars for twenty minutes. Just before their retreat, seven of the flock were on the ground at once, all holding bright red berries in their beaks. What manner of man can walk away from a flock of waxwings I do not know!
The feeders are empty now, and two mourning doves sit on the limbs of the tree cocking their heads to the side, seemingly asking themselves if it is worth the effort to descend twelve feet for a snack. A towhee joins them for a few minutes, then one branch at a time ladders his way down. A few nibbles and in true towhee fashion he is spooked and gone. The doves keep watch in silence until a bluejay squawks from across the yard, and I head out to refill the feeders for the next wave.
It is time for the first mowing of the season, and the first cut will be a laborious one, as my path will be dictated not so much by fence lines and contours, as by daffodils clustered around the fields. I could mow a daffodil about as easily as I could walk away from a flock of waxwings! For the past couple of weeks, any walk around the farm has been slowed by pause after pause to lie in the grass for that perfect angle to photograph yellow flower against blue sky. Unlike the waxwings, the flowers stay put and allow as close an approach as I desire. My endeavors to immortalize the buttercups deliver another spring arrival–my first tick of the season.
All around the farm, buds, leaves, and new growth signal the season. The bees are coming and going from the hive, the pussy willow at the end of the pond is covered with tiny pollinators of all stripes, and the pair of geese that have been hanging around the pond are enjoying forays to explore all the commotion around the feeders. In the woods I look for morels and find blooming trillium. The mower fills the air with the smell of chives. Spring.