Saturday, May 14, 2016

#phenology feeding signs of Spring

This morning saw the first female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks arrive at the feeders. A downy woodpecker (or two) has been at the oriole feeder several times a day for the past week or so. Still no sign of orioles or hummingbirds or monarch butterflies. Assuming that Spring actually returns from wherever she's gone, perhaps she'll bring more warm-weather migrants with her. Despite the threat of frost and freeze last night, some of the local (cold-hardy) columbines decided it was time to blossom. If they have faith in the return of warm weather, I suppose we should too.

columbine in bloom
columbine in bloom
Photo by J. Harrington
Meanwhile, this morning a robin was at the wood's edge, flipping through the leaves and duff, looking, I presume, for breakfast. I'm so use to seeing robins only on lawns or perched in trees that I wasn't at all sure what I was seeing for awhile. It was way too small to be a turkey, even a poult, and the red breast wasn't visible at first. I admit that I've rarely found robins scurrying about lawns to be particularly interesting. Robins in the woods scratching and thrashing through the leaves, on the other hand...

All of which brings us to today's poem, by one of my favorite poets. It appeared a couple of days ago on The Writer's Almanac. Comparing our feeders with hers, we trade Rose-breasted for evening, dogs for cats and oak trees for bittersweet vine. Our husky and the border collie "breed" seem to think small birds are here as their playmates and don't understand why they can't fly after their little feathered friends. I keep explaining we hope they'll only be able to grow wings when they're much, much older and get puzzled looks in return.

At the Feeder


by Jane Kenyon

First the Chickadees take
their share, then fly
to the bittersweet vine,
where they crack open the seeds,
excited, like poets
opening the day’s mail.

And the Evening Grosbeaks—
those large and prosperous
finches—resemble skiers
with the latest equipment, bright
yellow goggles on their faces.

Now the Bluejay comes in
for a landing, like a SAC bomber
returning to Plattsburgh
after a day of patrolling the ozone.
Every teacup in the pantry rattles.

The solid and graceful bodies
of Nuthatches, perpetually
upside down, like Yogis…
and Slate-Colored Juncoes, feeding
on the ground, taking only
what falls to them.

The cats watch, one
from the lid of the breadbox,
another from the piano. A third
flexes its claws in sleep, dreaming
perhaps, of a chicken neck,
or of being worshiped as a god
at Bubastis, during
the XXIII dynasty.


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