Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lyrical Transitions

There is a stirring - almost imperceptible - subtle, but strong. The sun appears to inch its way northward in an ever lengthening arch, and a gentle, warming breath rustles the evergreens and swelling buds of bushes and trees. Early green plants push up through the soil, some bursting into bloom as soon as they emerge. We hear a lyrical change, a quickening, in the calls of birds that echo through the woods.

Pine Siskin
Voracious flocks of Juncos still come through each day, now joined by chattering flocks of Pine Siskins. These lively, little brown birds are nomadic and have no fixed migrating patterns, so their presence varies from year to year, apparently in response to the local food supply. Our feeders are well supplied, but we are only one stop and last year we saw few. Although they can empty our feeders in a day, we enjoy these feisty little birds who easily hold their own against many of the larger birds. They are only passing through, snatching seeds and a variety of insects as they go. They seldom stay.

Varied Thrush by Walter Siegmund

Robins, and the Varied Thrushes that resemble them, have returned and their familiar songs fill the air. While the Robin’s song is cheerful and melodic, the Thrush’s is eerie - a long, quavering whistle, followed by several more at different pitches - the perfect accompaniment to our misty, drizzly habitat. Black and orange like the Robin, the male Thrush also sports an orange wing pattern, bright orange eyebrow and a broad black band across his breast. Both kinds of birds hunt on the ground, relishing insects, spiders, seeds, fruit, and of course worms. The Robins will stay, the Thrushes will move on.
Pileated Woodpecker
Woodpeckers live here year round, so are seen frequently. Beginning in deep winter, the slow, long courtship of the Hairy Woodpecker is signaled with the male drumming rapidly on a favorite spot to announce that he has staked out his territory and is seeking a mate. An interested female will drum back. Each species has its own distinct pattern of drumming: the small Downy’s is a rapid, unbroken roll, lasting about 2 seconds; the Hairy’s is similar, but louder and shorter; Sapsuckers add a few tap-tap-taps to the end. The Northern (Red Shafted) Flicker makes a soft, muffled drumming and burrows into trees, posts, and sometimes houses, for its nest hole. On the plus side, it eats more ants than any other North American bird, hopping about awkwardly on the ground to find them and other insects. Our favorite, the huge, redheaded Pileated, makes a drumming that is low-pitched, trailing off in speed and volume at the end. It excavates huge holes for its nest in dead trees or limbs and eats a great many carpenter ants. All of these come to feed on suet, noisily announcing their presence with rattling, ringing calls.

California Quail by Vibrantspirit

This past fall and winter, a small covey of California Quail came by to eat cracked corn. They drew the attention of a Sharp Shinned Hawk, which picked off a few. They are all gone now, hopefully some paired off and are working their way towards nesting. We miss their chi-ca-go calls and quick, sprightly movements. But now a brilliant male Ring-Necked Pheasant wanders in from time to time, his creaky gate-sounding skwagock always preceding his coming. And a pair of mallard ducks visits the pond, waddling back to gorge on corn. Someone leaves, someone else arrives.

Ring-Necked Pheasant
It is a time of transition - a fickle, drawn-out time between seasons. A time of turbulence, disruption and reordering. Through this cyclical time of change there is survival, the constancy of life ever moving on. A time to be savored.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever, nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 & 12 - 14

*To learn more about the above birds, and to hear their calls and the drumming sounds of the woodpeckers, just click on their names.

The above credited picture files
from Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

  1. transition time...from the bare cold winter months...to the warmer spring days. life comes out from hiding...and wanders!

    love your visiting birds...and buds!

    we have a few different woodpeckers here too...they sure are a pleasure to watch! AND to hear them pounding away!!

    have a wonderful weekend! :]laura