Now that the snow has finally melted after that late winter storm last month (that’s right: our worst winter weather occurred in the middle of April!), we can see sure signs that spring is definitely on the march. One week snow and ice; the next, dormant grass springs to life, and then in a day or two robins are pulling worms from the squishy earth. The near-silence of winter gives way to the welcome flurry of spring.
For me, it becomes a lot easier to “get out” this time of year because time itself seems to change in a pleasant way. At the end of winter, time slows as our stamina runs down. When we finally turn the corner with some consistently warm days, it’s as though the delay clears away some sort of backlog and time suddenly rushes to catch up.
My constant clock is Millbrook Pond. It keeps perfect time, I’ve noticed, all year round. In the depths of winter, when change is slow, the drama on the pond is pretty predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less profound. This winter, there were three geese that for some reason stayed behind. I saw them almost every day, and they were a constant reminder that life is precious and fragile.
At the end of April and start of May, the pond changes by the hour, and I try to go down to the water’s edge at least twice a day to keep an eye on things. These days, with the snow gone, everything is happening at the speed of flight. On one recent morning I saw what looked like a small squadron of Canada geese coming in for a landing, but as they settled on the pond I realized they were actually double-crested cormorants, the first I have seen this year. Six of them quickly gobbled down some fish and then they were gone. It was clearly a good morning for fishing because they were soon followed by an otter who hunted in the same area, the deepest section of the pond close to the new spillway.
Among the flying hunters, the osprey is the most dependable marauder. I love to see the osprey’s hovering “angel of destruction” pose just before it spears into the pond to hoist up a fish in its claws and take the astonished creature for its first and last aerial tour of Millbrook.
On the last day of April some goslings appeared on the pond, just in time to eat the grass that greened up suddenly as if in preparation for them. A huge Caspian tern, an uncommon visitor, also drifted in for a snack. Change brings old company and new, and we should all look ahead with excitement to the new dam and dredged pond. Will the geese like it as much? Will the deeper water lure new permanent inhabitants? Will it provide an even better home for the creatures we cherish so much because they return so briefly, or only seasonally? Time will tell.
By Lisa Stefaniak