Sunday, 13 April
Good Morning Justin…
The past few weeks I’ve been taking casual note of life’s return to full activity following its annual hiatus during the cold, brief days of winter. First came the yellow bloom of Daffodils and the white petals of Bradford Pears, even though the tree remained bare of its leaves and it was only early March and the weather was still the chill blast from a lion’s roar. The nights routinely dropped below freezing and occasionally dipped into the twenties. It didn’t snow, though, as the sky on these coldest of nights would remain clear with crystalline stars and maybe a sliver of moon. When evening clouds did roll in they would provide a thermal blanket over the atmosphere and what precipitated would be a pattering dance of rain on the roof above. It was too warm for even the slightest dusting of snow.
Robins began the month of March in a communal spread across muddy neighborhood lawns, searching among dead strands of last year’s leftover leaves for the first squirming specks of life that over the course of the day might add up to some kind of meal, not tasty but enough to keep one going. By mid-month they had paired off and were busy building their nests in mostly secretive places amidst the thick brush or in the stretched limbs of towering trees overhead, safely out of reach from snakes and prowling fox but not from the hungry crow, which was already busy marauding the still naked arboreal crowns for delectable eggs and possibly a precocious youngster, naively rearing up its tender head. Then, too, the adult bird had to always be mindful of the ever watchful Cooper’s Hawk, whose swift fatal strike would leave but a brief stir of feathers where just an instant before Mom was collecting bits of grass to add to her growing nest.
Male Cardinals were seen in twos and threes squabbling among themselves as to who would get rights to which choice piece of land. There wasn’t room for everyone and less dominate males would be constantly kept on the move until they successfully fought off rivals for a stake of their own or were pushed beyond their desired habitat of thicket or woodlands edge. Defeated and dispossessed, the outcast Cardinal would become weak from lack of food and would fall prey to any one of a number of predators or natural calamities. By April the ants had once again broken through to the surface of the land and they could be counted upon to pick clean the bones of any animal that had failed to sustain the careful internal chemical equilibrium required of the living.
April would also find Northern Flickers and Red-Headed Woodpeckers busy swooping from tree to tree and doing their rapid rat-tat-tat to break through the rough, cork-like outer crust of oak and other forest trees in order to use its long, sticky tongue to nab insects that had burrowed beneath the bark. Black Carpenter Bees were also out in number, swarming about the now flowering Dogwood and the showy, dangling violet blooms of Wisteria – not the native kind but the exotic Chinese Wisteria that can quickly infest an area with its many runners that course the ground and use the framework of sturdier vegetation for climbing, giving it height.
Still missing are the many hummingbirds and butterflies. Presumably they wait in the wings for a more generous supply of nectar provided by the mature bloom of summer flowers. Swallows from the Amazon basin probably aren’t due until May. They’re expert at vacuuming insects from the air and, to date, there just aren’t that many around. They’re coming, though. Temperatures are now flirting with daytime 80s. New kinds of walking, crawling and flying insects are making their appearance each day. Yesterday, it was young, female flying ants. This morning it was a small praying mantis. The insects awaken and they will soon be here in waves – grand, fat morsels ready to feed a whole new generation of mockingbirds, robin, wrens, possum, frogs, lizards and the like.