Cusp of Spring

Sunset_RiverWinter has returned, and there is a snowstorm lurking for the end of the week. Of course, every storm this year has missed us so we listen to forecasts with a good deal of skepticism.

We spent the past week at home with the flu. I took up residence in the sun room where I could nap in the warm sun and watch the birds at the feeder.

This morning, feeling much better, we were sitting in the sun room, sipping tea, and watching the birds. Yesterday I noticed junkos at the feeder in large numbers.  Juncos tend to come down into town when storms threaten to make life in the mountains difficult. Given the paucity of storms this past winter, they have generally been absent from the feeder, and it was a joy to see them!

This morning they are still here, and their numbers have increased dramatically. They flit too and fro, the sharp contrast between their Payne’s gray and pure white wing feathers startlingly beautiful. They have been joined by a pair of yellow shafted flickers, puffed up against the cold. We seldom see them at the feeder so their presence is a treat. There are also a pair of hairy woodpeckers, and for the first time this spring, the male goldfinches are showing just a hint of yellow.

The mixed flock of birds that visits the feeder throughout the winter is growing and diversifying, and the feeder empties as we watch. Later, I’ll go out and fill it again. Many of our overwinter birds are already brooding, and the return of cold weather puts considerable stress on the breeding pairs; their nutrient needs increase as they raise chicks, and during cold weather. By early June we stop feeding, assuming the environment will provide plenty of nutrients, but right now the birds depend on us to maintain a steady flow of seed.

Beyond the feeder, the maples in the woods are showing color in the top branches, just the hint of the spring reds and oranges to come before leaf out. There are also patches of newly green vegetation showing in the understory. Closer to the house, the lilacs are leafing out, and the first crocuses are in bloom. The tulips are showing leaves in the side garden, and the yellow forsythia branches nod in the breeze. Clearly, winter is waning and spring is on the rise. Soon the world will be filled with color, although probably not this week.

19 thoughts on “Cusp of Spring

  1. In Wisconsin, we went from 3 inches of snow Saturday morning to almost 70 degrees on Sunday. And this morning, there are snowflakes blowing about. Spring is a great teacher of change and living in the present moment!

  2. As you know, Michael, I have a mini bird sanctuary in my courtyard. I could not live in the city without these wingeds and four-leggeds enjoying my meals I give them every day. They are so family oriented and beautiful to watch that I am honored that they spend time with me. I was sent a very sick sea gull last year from a medicine man (Rolling Thunder) friend of mine…..he got better and now lives on the roof of my house either alone or with friends and shares the crow food I put out..Great fun and heart warming for me. Spring is in the air, robins have already built some nests nearby!!! Hope mom has knit them a blanket!!!!! Bright Star

  3. Wonderful post. It is the time of year we can expect all kinds of weather. The Juncos probably have to gang up against the territorial Flickers. I hope you continue to feel better. Bob

    1. Bob, only saw the flickers once, so the juncos just coexist with the cardinals. The goldfinches are showing vibrant color, and using both the ground and the feeder. The yard is filled with birdlife, and more than a few squirrels….

  4. It’s definitely winter here in southern Ontario. The birds are battling with the squirrels for food. We have some robins and red wing blackbirds that are probably confused by the snow and ice. They are usually signs of spring, but not this year it seems.

    1. Yes, the blackbirds returned just in time for more snow and ice, and very cold temps. This week, if we are blessed, warmth returns. We shall see. I am looking forward to it.

  5. Ugh, so many people I know, including me, have caught some kind of hard cold or flu… so late from the usual timing, but just as wearing nonetheless.
    At least, we have the signs of spring being confirmed in all kinds of ways. I also like seeing the return of some of our birds from the south. Won’t be long for the hummingbirds.
    Take good care, Michael.

    1. Thanks! Yes, appears to be a very late blossoming of the flu. Apparently only some of the vaccine was useful this year. Anyway, we are mending and spring sits, waiting impatiently at the door. Hope you are feeling much better.

  6. I do the same here-feed the birds in the autumn and winter, then in spring and summer switch my attention to the struggling bees and butterflies by planting flowers.

  7. What a lovely peep into your garden and the bird life around you. I have never heard of quite a number of the birds you mentions, so am off to google their names in the hope of some images to fill in the blanks in my head😊
    You’ve also reminded me that I need to go and refill our bird feeders today… you we have a good number of birds already nesting despite the ongoing cold.

    1. Green, what did you find when you looked up the birds? One of the pleasures of travel is to meet new species. Sadly, here, and in many parts of the world, birds are in very real trouble. Still, for now, we have their company, and I am grateful. Yes, some of the species breed early, even in February.

  8. A flock of robins had to eeek out a meal around the last snow. I need their birdsong, we all do. Feel your best soon Michael! ❤

    1. Thank you, Lara! I do feel better, although we are in the midst of writing a proposal for a conference. We’ve presented this material before, but for some reason our blurb and title are not up to snuff, so we are grumpily revising.So tiring! Grumble, grumble. Outside, birdsong!

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