Thursday, March 24, 2016

Phenology notes on birds, butterflies and bears

Yesterday's snow storm passed south of us, for which I'm grateful. It may have pushed some Juncos north ahead of it. This morning there are large numbers of them around and under the front bird feeder, and late yesterday we disturbed a flock or two that was picking through the hulls under the back feeders. We continue to have an increased number (compared to Winter) of purple finches at the feeders and I've noticed a goldfinch or two that has really brightened up.

a purple finch pair
a purple finch pair
Photo by J. Harrington
Most years, including this one, Spring never arrives as soon as I'd like nor stays around as long as I want it to. Birds migrating through, buds bursting, monarchs on their way, I hope, and the appearance of Spring ephemerals fill the fields, woods and yards with beauty and motion. In the spirit of welcoming warmer weather, I planted the contents of a packet of butterfly flowers I found in my desk drawer. If we get germination and growth, they'll get transplanted into the yard. If not, there's room in the compost pile.

I noticed this past Winter that honeycrisp apples have been available all season. Several years ago, I recall they disappeared in late autumn or early Winter. The flavor and size of those available near the end of Winter were sometimes on the downside of ideal. Perhaps they were grown in climate and soil conditions that vary greatly from Minnesota's, a different apple terroir? The more I learn about local foods the more I become sensitized to seasonality, or lack thereof, and find reinforcement for my observation that the opposite of good isn't evil, it's convenience. Speaking of which, I'm starting to deal with the daily inconvenience of bringing the feeders in at night. DNR has sent out an advisory about bears coming out of hibernation early this year due to our warm Winter. We haven't yet put up the hummingbird and oriole feeders and don't intend to replace them with hanging flower baskets. Country living has lots of rewards, not all of which are convenient to enjoy.

The Rosetta Stone for Birdcalls

is the Rosetta Stone for Human Suffering. Caw = territorial
outrage. Musical flutings upwards = the days of summer are always
declining. Peep = hunger. Barrage of chips = desperate hunger.
Who? = the nest has been abandoned. Varied pipings =
I surrender my eggs to a predator. Grates & rusty
noises = the distance between us can only be managed by violence.
Trill = inadequacy of desire. Low whistles = difficulties with
lice, with bacteria, with fungus, etc.

No such stone ever hewn would translate lightning or torrent
a million years elicits. No such stone would bear the
incisions of the master’s awl.
Such a stone would serve instead as instruction manual for building
pyramids & museums.

When the accipiter in its suicidal plummet snatches the finch,
what instrument measures the strum of the vibrating airs? Who sees
the God who plucks this lute?


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