Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Ides of March bring a stunning surprise to... #phenology

On the Ides of March, the red-winged blackbirds are back! They were seen perched on branches and telephone wires around the local marshes this morning. I know this because I'm the one who saw them. I also noticed that the willows are becoming brighter yellow these days and many wetland bushes and shrubs are turning redderer and redderer. It's a treat to see colors returning to the countryside. Although, seeing some green leaves emerge on the (UPDATE: store-bought, cut) forsythia branches was, in some ways, even more satisfying than enjoying the yellow blossoms.

recent arrival, red-winged blackbird
recent arrival, red-winged blackbird
Photo by J. Harrington

Trumpeter swans, Canada geese and some black and white diving ducks (probably common goldeneye) are still paddling around the open waters of the Sunrise River but I haven't yet seen sandhill cranes in the fields or wetlands this Spring. Some day soon, no doubt, some day soon, they'll appear when I least expect them. Maybe they're waiting for more snow and ice to melt. Food might be pretty sparse until more frogs and snakes are active again and plant shoots start to green up. Stay tuned.

only slightly stunned female hairy woodpecker
only slightly stunned female hairy woodpecker
Photo by J. Harrington

Earlier this month, when we had that extended spell of warm weather, we stopped refilling the suet feeder. The hairy and downy woodpeckers responded by feeding from the sunflower seed feeders, particularly the one in front of the house, where they can perch on the wire mesh. Today, as this was being written, a female hairy woodpecker flew into a window, completely undeterred by the curtains hanging behind the glass. Apparently, no one warned her to "Beware the Ides of March!" The Son-In-Law heard the thump, went outside, picked up the bird, placed her in a protective box and carried the box through the house to put it on the rear deck, away from all but the most intrepid predators. We're delighted to report that, a short time later, the occupant of the box recovered and flew away with no apparent harm done. It did occur to me that, back in the bad old days, when screens were hung on the outside of windows, birds might have had a less traumatic life. Then again, at this time of year, it's probable that storm windows, instead of screens, would probably still be hung and the collision might not have been heard. Does life ever seem that way to you? Six of one, half a dozen of the other? Especially on the Ides of March.

[Sleeping sister of a farther sky]


By Karen Volkman


Sleeping sister of a farther sky,
dropped from zenith like a tender tone,
the lucid apex of a scale unknown
whose whitest whisper is an opaque cry
of measureless frequency, the spectral sigh
you breath, bright hydrogen and brighter zone
of fissured carbon, consummated moan
and ceaseless rapture of a brilliant why.
Will nothing wake you from your livid rest?
Essence of ether and astral stone
the stunned polarities your substance weaves
in one bright making, like a dream of leaves
in the tree’s mind, summered. Or as a brooding bone
roots constellations in the body’s nest.


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