Wednesday, April 1, 2015

There 's no song where others sing, More glorious than the rest. ~ Dora Shorter

     Friends keeping me company while I do some spring garden cleanup.  
Gold finches are year round residents but migrating red polls are seen very briefly in my area.

Most of you gardeners and wildlife lovers know all this but I always get excited and want to write about it each spring.

The season is changing and migration  has begun.  We all love nature and want to be closer to it and a part of it.  This is an exciting time for bird lovers and bird watchers but a stressful time for the birds. Birds have a long journey of sometimes  more than a thousand miles to make  through parts of the country they are unfamiliar with.  They face severe hardships including lack of food, physical exhaustion, and extremes in weather,  They must navigate man made obstructions like communication towers and windmills which kill millions of birds.  And they do all this using methods that we don't completely understand.  Scientists think birds navigate using the same routes every year by means of the stars and the earth's magnetic fields.  (A lot of research shows that animals can feel the earth's magnetic pulls and understand the relationship of stars to their location.  To me this is nothing short of a miracle which nature has in abundance and people will probably never feel but we keep desperately trying to understand.)

If you are a bird lover, a bird watcher, or a bird feeder like me, you have your feeders filled to the brim and maybe some thistle socks added to your usual millet and sunflower feeders. Every year birds on their way to Canada stop at my feeders to get their fill of food and renew their energy resources.  This is an opportunity for me to see birds I only see briefly once a year.  Indigo buntings, red polls, grosbeaks, pine siskins, sap suckers and others don't spend the summer here but they pass through my area.

I hang at least one thistle sock on branches near my windows hoping to get some great bird views and great photos through the glass.  Don't worry about the thistle seed sprouting in your flower gardens.  Nijer seed is sterilized to prevent sprouting and maintain the high prices charged by growers.  Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready.  Migrating birds usually hang out at feeders for several days regaining their strength before continuing their journey.

Above is the most recent 'migrater' to arrive back in my area.  For the last several years vultures have nested in the loft of a ramshackle old barn on a corner of my property.  I'm happy to see them back this year.    It's exciting to see them hovering overhead, never moving a wing, just hanging motionless in the air.  The first year they lived here it was a little disconcerting to see them sitting on the barn roof watching me work in the garden.  Since, I've gotten used to having them around.  I especially enjoy watching them teaching their young to swoop and soar around the barns.  

For those who love poems as much as I do:

Under the Vulture-Tree

We have all seen them circling pastures,
have looked up from the mouth of a barn, a pine clearing,   
the fences of our own backyards, and have stood   
amazed by the one slow wing beat, the endless dihedral drift.
But I had never seen so many so close, hundreds,   
every limb of the dead oak feathered black,

and I cut the engine, let the river grab the jon boat   
and pull it toward the tree.
The black leaves shined, the pink fruit blossomed   
red, ugly as a human heart.
Then, as I passed under their dream, I saw for the first time   
its soft countenance, the raw fleshy jowls
wrinkled and generous, like the faces of the very old   
who have grown to empathize with everything.

And I drifted away from them, slow, on the pull of the river,   
reluctant, looking back at their roost,   
calling them what I'd never called them, what they are,
those dwarfed transfiguring angels,
who flock to the side of the poisoned fox, the mud turtle
crushed on the shoulder of the road,
who pray over the leaf-graves of the anonymous lost,
with mercy enough to consume us all and give us wings.


tina said...

I'm glad to see you talk about vultures. We have a ton here-year round residents. They are so beautiful and so quiet and mysterious. They roost in the trees about our property and the neighbors property. The ground turns white below them so the unsuspecting person must be wary. Too cool to have them roost in your barn!

tina said...

Such a poignant poem about them. They really do a good service for us all.

Lowcarb team member said...

Have been out and about visiting family this week and earlier we enjoyed sitting watching chaffinches eating at the bird table .......... such beautiful colours.

All the best Jan

sweetbay said...

Those redpolls are beautiful little birds. They look like they've been dipped in cranberry juice.

I've seen a couple of pairs of purple martins and heard a white-eyed vireo singing. It won't be long before all of the summer players are back.

We have vultures here too. I see them flying overhead all of the time. One time I saw more than a dozen, a kettle that looked like a slow-moving vortex. It was an impressive sight.

Lowcarb team member said...

I love reading poems of all sorts of subjects ....... thanks for this.

All the best Jan

troutbirder said...

What a beautiful post and sentiment. Though I should mention the millions lost to feral and free rooming domestic cats. After watching many song birds taken below my feeders last spring, I suggested my neighbors put collars and bells on the "house cats" got little response and took matters into my own hands. . The problem was reduced by an unbelievable 27 in less than a month....

Rose said...

Such a thought-provoking poem! I never thought much of vultures until a friend remarked that they have their job to do, too. Bottoms' poem certainly casts them in a different, favorable light.

You've provided some very important information here, Marnie--not being that much of a birder, I hadn't thought about the needs of migrating birds. I keep the feeders filled during winter, but I'm not as diligent in the spring. I'll have to remember this.