Noticing What’s New and What’s Gone

As I sit on this icy, almost-spring morning, contemplating the sun and warmer temperatures promised later, I am also anticipating with some joy, my “spring “ chores.  The prediction there will be a few days without rain means I’ll apply dormant spray to my fruit trees to kill the overwintering insects and fungi that destroy fruit.  I’ll scrub off my outdoor cushions and allow them to dry in the sun. And with the rain promised later next week will activate the fertilizer I put around my roses to help them grow with vigor.

I am noticing as well that the swallows have not yet returned to our pond.  I check our records we have kept for the 12 plus years of living here. TODAY is the earliest date when swallows have arrived (March 9) but on average, later in March is more typical.   Oregon Birders on Line articles note that swallows have been seen in the past couple of weeks– apparently migrating but not staying – at other areas in Washington County.  (http://birding.aba.org/maillist/OR5) Our neighbor has a number of Swallow houses near the pond.  Soon the Violet Green and Tree Swallows will be making their selections. As temperatures rise, there will soon be enough of a sustained series of insect hatches to support the Swallows and their brood. I look forward to watching them swoop over the ponds catching the latest insect hatch.

The flocks of Cackling Geese are dwindling.  Just a month ago, two or three hundred spent each night on the pond.  This morning there were about 20 Cacklers, which had spent the night. Time to move north to breeding grounds along the western coast of Alaska. These birds are often mistaken for the Canada goose, some of which become year-round residents. Cacklers are much smaller, about the size of Mallard ducks and have darker chest feathers than the much larger Canada goose.  Their voice is referred to as a “cackling” call as opposed to the HONK HONK call of the Canada goose. I am always thrilled to be able to point out the differences to my friends and bird tour guests who find they never noticed the size difference, the voice difference or the subtle coloration differences.  It’s often fun to notice something you had previously over-looked.

As spring begins to arrive we see trees forming buds and peony stems pushing out of the ground.  Yet the hellebore flowers, like the Swallows, are some of our earliest spring “arrivals”.   Our Black Capped Chickadees have started to enjoy the balls of cat hair and dryer lint I put out near our bird feeders. They take a beakful and go “feather” their nests with warm fluff. We have a variety of birdhouses for our local cavity nesters—which include the Red Breasted Nuthatch, the Chickadees and the Woodpeckers and Swallows.  I also have a Wood Duck house—they are our only tree nesting duck—most other ducks nest on the ground. So be careful as you mow—we do have some ground nesters, which are very fragile such as the Juncos – we have a pair who builds their ground nest under a large bunch of daffodils every year. So be mindful as you walk and mow and weed.

Spending time outdoors may be a way of inviting variety into one’s life by connecting to seasonal changes.  Noticing what’s new and what’s different can add awe and interest and draw your brain into making new connections.  Smiling and going outdoors are really good for you!

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