Saturday, April 2, 2016

Spring's music can be discordant #phenology

As my dog and I stepped out the front door this morning for our early walk, I was immediately reminded of the haunting phrase from Bob Dylan's great song Girl from the North Country: "to keep her from the howlin' winds." I know this is Minnesota. I know we get snow 11 out the 12 months a year. I still feel a nasty, negative, emotional jolt when we go from 70F to snow cover and tree-top swirling wind gusts within ten days or two weeks. If there is such a thing as weather-induced whiplash, I suffer from it. At least the dog(s) and I have a warm house to return to. Birds can migrate south again. Plants and flowers have to just stay rooted and take whatever Mother Nature dishes out. Spring becomes a "pass - fail" system.

March 23 last year, last snow?
March 23 last year, was there April snow?
Photo by J. Harrington

This year again we have a red-winged blackbird at our feeders. The folks at Audubon, which, by the way, has an impressive photo or Mr. Red-winged,  have this to say about blackbirds' feeding behavior:
"Forages mostly while walking on ground; also sometimes up in shrubs and trees. Outside the breeding season, usually forages in flocks, often associated with other blackbirds and starlings."
while the Cornell "All About Birds" web site writes:
"Red-winged Blackbirds may come to your yard for mixed grains and seeds, particularly during migration. Spread grain or seed on the ground as well, since this is where Red-winged Blackbirds prefer to feed."

red-winged blackbird at feeder
red-winged blackbird at feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

"Mostly" and "preferred" lead me to believe that blackbirds at our feeders are unusual but not rare, sort of like April snowstorms in Minnesota and the ability of the plants and animals we enjoy here in the North Country to survive despite our occasional relapses in our progression toward Summer. If conditions become too unpleasant, we human inhabitants can stay indoors and read our way through:

National Poetry Month

Blackbird Etude

By A. E. Stallings

For Craig

The blackbird sings at
the frontier of his music.
The branch where he sat

marks the brink of doubt,
is the outpost of his realm,
edge from which to rout

encroachers with trills
and melismatic runs sur-
passing earthbound skills.

It sounds like ardor,
it sounds like joy. We are glad
here at the border

where he signs the air
with his invisible staves,
“Trespassers beware”—

Song as survival—
a kind of pure music which
we cannot rival.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.