During the month before each column, I often make notes about what I might write about. Recently one such note began, “One day after the rains had stopped….”
Who was to know there was much more rain on the way?! That note was made on May 10th and on that day I saw both the smallest and the largest bird we have in our area.
On that day I saw the first hummingbird of the season. I have loved these tiny jewels of birds since I was a child. The males always arrive before the females. Strangely, it is during this first arrival that you usually see the males–I have no idea why. Hummingbirds are the smallest bird in the bird family. Our only hummingbird here is the Ruby-throated and it is only about 3 inches long and weighs in at from .1 to .2 of an ounce!
But the very same day in the afternoon I saw a bird I have never seen here before. A neighbour drew my attention to the sky over the millpond. A Bald Eagle! I saw an osprey but then looking higher there it was with its incredible wingspan and stunningly white head and tail! I have seen them on the West and East Coasts but never here. This giant of the bird family can measure up to 43 inches in length and top the scale at 12 pounds! The population of these birds has been growing (actually recovering) since the bad old days of DDT. Now I will be looking up a lot more!
The fruit trees have been covered in blossom this spring. The Damson Plum that I planted when I moved here is now mature and was a mass of bloom. It was a beautiful sight! And this sight was complimented by the birds that visited it. I was admiring it one day when into the branches flew a male Yellow Warbler. The brilliant yellow against the snow white was riveting. And the next morning the Baltimore Orioles were constantly in among the blossom-covered branches. Such sights take my breath away with their beauty. I think it’s called joy.
And on the same morning I was amazed to see a fledged baby cardinal being fed by its mother. So early?! And that means this baby and its poor mother were in the nest (an open nest!) during those days of heavy rain!
In our ponds and wetlands the mating calls of the Spring Peepers are coming to an end for another year. But with the warming of the season the Grey Treefrogs are taking over with their exuberant mating calls. Listen for this. It’s hard to describe but once you hear it you won’t forget. For such a small frog it is incredibly loud. One book describes it as a “blurting trill”.
In the next month watch for turtles emerging from our ponds and lakes. They are searching for a suitable place to dig and lay their eggs. In Millbrook, usually around the weekend of the Fair, female Snapping Turtles can be seen lumbering along. These prehistoric looking creatures are very vulnerable out of the water. Please be careful as you drive anywhere. And check under your parked car before you drive away.
From hummingbirds to eagles; from the smallest of frogs to turtles bigger than a dinner plate, there is so much to see and hear. From soup to nuts, get out! And enjoy!
By Glen Spurrell