By Jack McShane
Please keep in mind that the deadline for our Gazette is the 15th of the month, so much of what I am reporting here is kind of old news. With that I begin with the exciting days of the emerging spring–at least the attempts at same. My true harbingers of spring are our redwing blackbirds, usually arriving around March 10, last year February 28, this year, with patience ebbing, March 19th. On this day before the official first day of spring there finally were six below the feeder, squabbling amongst themselves and crowding out the local troop of bluejay bullies, all of this resulting in what I would call a territorial grabfest. The next day, with large patches of grass starting to show, there, mingling amongst them, was the male cardinal making a very colorful addition. And then on the 21st there was a loud swooshing sound which turned out to be a flock of what appeared to be at least 50 bluejays on an aerial rampage alighting in trees here and there, many of which paired off sitting quietly shoulder to shoulder. Was this true love? Eventually they all flew off in one large flock apparently migrating to more northern climes. As this happened overhead, 21 redwings and 2 purple grackles under the feeder paid no heed.
A day later I awakened to the very first sound of honking Canada geese on their way north. Later in the day a low-flying flock appeared in a much disoriented pattern–their honking sounding upset and unhappy–and flying back south. It was apparent that these guys were disappointed with the fact that all their stopover ponds and even the reservoir were still frozen over. Ah well, too soon to the homeland, back south for a while guys.
The very early arrival of many robins amazes me, what do they eat? There are no worms on the still frozen turf, but they continue to look, listen and poke at what I do not know. I have watched them making valiant attempts to shake off a dried up crabapple or rosehip, usually without success. They’ve got to be very hungry.
One evening, driving up to the garage I almost hit a cottontail rabbit, the first one observed since last fall. How they evade the nightly prowling of the bobcats and coyotes, and find something to eat in a long and snowy winter, does not cease to amaze me. I wish this little survivor well and also successful procreation, which of course will not make my gardening wife happy. The raccoon that has now formed a habit of making a daylight visit to the ground below the birdfeeder, apparently feasting on the overflow, is probably one of the two caught on the trailcam at the overflow exit of our lower pond. That cam has captured the following this winter: two raccoons, one red fox, one mink, red squirrels, gray squirrels, many crows, many bluejays and one very large coyote. Not caught yet is a bobcat or an otter. Where is Ollie? I do hope for a return of this playful dude, even better with a family. Of course then it will be Mollie and Oscar and . . . No, I don’t want to go there.
A male bluebird hanging around the box just off the porch, which has had a pair occupying it with successful hatches every year since its installation, is a reminder to clean out the other forty boxes scattered around our field edges. Nancy’s constant reminding to take down the bird feeder because the local bears are about to emerge had gone unheeded until April 4, when a bear did the job for me. Now I will just scatter the cracked corn and black oil sunflower seed mix by hand on a semi-daily basis. This will keep the avian show activated without more bear intrusion (I hope). My son Kris, now retired and up for a visit, and looking toward May 1, opening day of turkey season, asked if there had been any turkey activity. I replied that no, so far this spring I had not seen a bird on Bussey Hollow, and with that comment 6 arrived at the feeder location and later there were 15. Reminder: you probably will hear an occasional shot between sunrise and 12 noon during the month of May as this is the much anticipated gobbler season.
What a delight! Today, on my birthday, April 9th, I was treated to a trio of waterfowl species on our small pond alongside the road in pairs: Canada geese, mallards and, best of all, wood ducks.
John Burroughs wrote, “In the fields and woods more than anything else, all things come to those who wait, because all things are on the move, and are sure sooner or later to come your way.” ~