For the Birds: Spring thoughts

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Red-winged Blackbird perches on a tree in New England.

I often preach about enjoying what nature hands you regardless of the season, but I have to admit that my thoughts drifted toward spring a few times this week.

It wasn’t the general mildness of this winter that got me thinking about spring. In fact, I’m still holding out hope for more snow, although that may be an unpopular thought.

But three separate incidences steered my mind toward spring recently. First I noticed buds on the trees that line my street and the crocuses are in full bloom in the garden. Then I visited the neighborhood pond and heard the wonderful chorus of red-winged blackbirds. Finally, I dug deep into my video archive and came across “Spring and Summer Songbirds of the Backyard,” a short documentary narrated by George Harrison (no, not the former Beatle).

With so much mild weather, I wasn’t caught off guard by seeing the buds on the trees or the crocuses in bloom.

The red-winged blackbirds, as we have discussed in previous columns, have arrived a little earlier than usual, but it’s nothing too out of the ordinary. Male red-winged blackbirds arrive much earlier than females in order to find suitable habitat for nesting.

So the buds and blackbirds were not quite enough to get me thinking about spring. It was mostly that darn video. I should have never watched it again. Warblers, hummingbirds, orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks. Birds we haven’t seen for months are the stars of the video.

It didn’t necessarily make me long for spring, but it did get me thinking about it.

Lush greens and colorful flowers fill the background of the scenes. Goldfinches and indigo buntings in their breeding plumage are additional colorful reminders on the video of what is coming to New England in six weeks or so.

The bright, vibrant colors in the video are in stark contrast to what we’re seeing in New England now. The woods are brown and gray. The fields — and a lot of lawns — are tan. About the only green we see now is that of the evergreens.

Much of the tape is devoted to showing birds building nests and raising young. Harrison shows wrens, yellow warblers and bluebirds hard at work for the next generation.

It reminded me of a time I watched as a mourning dove combed the ground for building material. The dove found a hot spot and returned several times to the same area for straw. This all happened, of course, in the spring.

So, while my thoughts may veer toward spring every so often — and I doubt if I’m the only one — I’m still focused on the task at hand: enjoying the rest of winter. There are still hawks to watch in the leafless trees, chickadees and titmice to observe at feeders or in the woods, owls to try to find, and countless other experiences only winter can offer.

And, of course, there are waterfowl to watch. The neighborhood pond has housed dozens of hooded mergansers for several weeks now. Most recently, though, and most importantly, common mergansers (one of my favorite birds) are back and I’m in no hurry to get rid of them. Yeah, spring can wait.

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