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Beacon Senior News

So long, winter! Hello, spring

Mar 03, 2020 12:19PM ● By Amy Laundrie

The arrival of birds ushers in spring sounds

When a park ranger near my home reported that the great blue herons had returned, I knew spring had truly arrived. These amazing birds nest in a rookery close to the south shore of a nearby lake. It’s an ideal place to view them. My husband and I have met our daughter and two young grandsons at this location several times in the past few years. We’ve been entertained each time. Watching these huge birds land on the tiniest of branches is like watching a Cirque du Soleil performance. And the sounds! Herons croak, squawk and squabble LOUDLY.    

A word of caution: Don’t walk underneath the nests. It’s illegal to disturb the herons, and you don’t want to risk an attack or “whitewashing.”

If you’re lucky enough to visit a rookery, bring binoculars so you can get a closeup of these huge grayish-blue birds. If you time it right and are lucky, you’ll see an adult regurgitate food to its young. Sounds gross, I know, but I also find it remarkable. The adult eats the frog or fish and brings up the soup-like mixture to feed its young.

During another visit to the rookery, I felt like I’d entered a horror movie. The young were close to fledgling, and several turkey vultures sat on nearby branches. Shivers crawled up my back when I realized the vultures were waiting for a young heron to fall out of the nest so they could snatch it.

The return of the herons inspired me to devote the following day to recording more signs of spring.

At sunrise, I rejoiced to hear warblers, sparrows, finches and the return of the sandhill cranes.

Even though the temperature was only in the 50s, I dressed in shorts and sandals. I called to Josie the Cockapoo, and she rushed for the door knowing it’s time for a walk. Neighbors were also strolling about, stopping to visit and catch up on the latest news.

Parts of yards were still spongy, but green shoots from tulips, daffodils and crocuses signal better weather to come. The crocuses reminded me of how, one fall, my father-in-law secretly planted yellow and purple bulbs all over the front yard as a surprise for my mother-in-law.

Josie and I headed to the woods. Skunk cabbage had already poked through the marshy ground by a creek, and pussy willows were in full bloom. The maples had that lovely reddish glow.

I looked for signs that the great horned owl is back nesting near the valley. Great horned owls are early nesters, so I saw young popping up their heads already.

Josie and I walked by a creek, and I heard one of my all-time favorite sounds: the call of the red-winged blackbird. This scratchy oak-a-lee call has always meant spring to me. Since I grew up with a cattail pond in my backyard, whenever I first heard the male red-winged blackbird staking out its territory hoping to attract a mate, I knew that warm weather and summer vacation weren’t far behind.

We returned home, and I pulled all the dead flower stalks from my garden and checked on the fish in the water garden. I still counted 7, so all survived.

I decided to go grocery shopping and headed downtown. I avoided the many potholes, lowered my window, and waved to anyone outside. Restaurants and attractions that had been closed over the winter announced, “Opening soon!”

I returned home and unearthed the grill. Soon the smell of steaks filled the air.

Ah, yes, spring! I spent time on the computer and ordered a dozen fertile mallard eggs. Soon I’ll start the incubator so by May, I’ll have ducklings running around the backyard.

The sun set, and a chorus of high-pitched spring peeper frogs chirped, “Goodbye, long winter; hello, spring.”