Friday, April 8, 2016

Migration, molting and mating magic #phenology

For one brief moment this morning, one of our deck feeders was simultaneously visited by a bright male goldfinch and a magenta-highlighted purple finch against a background of bright, white snowflakes. This being real life, by the time I had my camera in hand, both males were gone, leaving the more drab females in brown and white or olive, black and white, plus gray and white juncos. The visual impact just wasn't the same, although the seasonal snow-showers did prompt me to compose a couple of haiku:
red squirrel scampers
over snow-covered green grass
Minnesota spring

pre-scamper red squirrel
pre-scamper red squirrel
Photo by J. Harrington

Dutchman's Breeches blooms
blanketed by falling flakes
Minnesota spring
I also managed to get some pictures of the above-mentioned birds at the feeder, with the mating-colored male replaced by one in partial molt. The seasonal "breeze" was better for kite-flying than picture taking. Today, by the way, is the first time this season (whichever season it is) I've seen a goldfinch as brightly colored as this morning's earlier visitor. The juncos and some of the purple finches will probably keep heading north, while the goldfinches and some of the purple finches will continue to trade entertainment for food through the nesting and rearing seasons. I'm starting to wonder how long it will be and if we'll see scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks and other semi-exotic visitors this year.

wind-blown male goldfinch
wind-blown male goldfinch
Photo by J. Harrington


partially molted male goldfinch and pair of purple finches
partially molted male goldfinch and pair of purple finches
Photo by J. Harrington

Spring Snow

By Linda Gregerson

A kind of counter-
blossoming, diversionary,

doomed, and like
the needle with its drop

of blood a little
too transparently in

love with doom, takes
issue with the season: Not

(the serviceberry bright
with explanation) not

(the redbud unspooling
its silks) I know I've read

the book but not (the lilac,
the larch) quite yet, I still

have one more card to
play. Behold

a six-hour wonder: six
new inches bedecking the

railing, the bench, the top
of the circular table like

a risen cake. The saplings
made (who little thought

what beauty weighs) to bow
before their elders.

The moment bears more
than the usual signs of its own

demise, but isn't that
the bravery? Built

on nothing but the self-
same knots of air

and ice. Already
the lip of it riddled

with flaws, a sort
of vascular lesion that

betokens—what? betokens
the gathering return

to elementals. (She
was frightened

for a minute, who had
planned to be so calm.)

A dripline scoring
the edge of the walk.

The cotton batting blown
against the screen begun

to pill and molt. (Who
clothed them out of

mercy in the skins
of beasts.) And even

as the last of the
lightness continues

to fall, the seepage
underneath has gained

momentum. (So that
there must have been a

death before
the death we call the

first or what became
of them, the ones

whose skins were taken.)
Now the more-

of-casting-backward-than-of-
forward part, which must

have happened while I wasn't
looking or was looking

at the skinning knives. I think
I'll call this mercy too.


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