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.