My Eyes for Beauty Pine*

Early spring is always the time when I most want to see something in bloom, or smell a scent, or hear birdsong.

And this year that need is greatly heightened because of the Coronavirus and the measures put in place to slow the  pace of this dreadful pandemic. I hope you too can take comfort in the beauty of nature and can draw strength from it as well.

There are a few flowers already in bloom in my garden. I can’t tell you how much pleasure they bring me! As I walk around Millbrook I’m always glancing into people’s yards to try to catch sight of some colour. In wild areas the first of the wild flowers will soon appear. The earliest is typically Coltsfoot. It produces starry daisy-like yellow flowers and it can be found many places where the soil has been disturbed, such as along the shoulders of roads. In wetter areas soon we will be enjoying Marsh Marigolds. There was a glorious area of them on the west side of County Road #10 going north out of Millbrook. The construction of a sidewalk there seems to have destroyed a large portion of them. I hope we’ll still be able to find some.

On the millpond besides the Canada Geese and Mallards, several migrating species of duck have made an appearance. Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneyes and Buffleheads are ones I have seen this year. All four of these species are “diving ducks”, those species that dive in search of small fish, invertebrates and plants. They stay totally submerged for several seconds. So don’t be surprised when watching these ducks, now you see ‘em now you don’t. These are all beautiful small ducks and well worth a visit to any body of water to watch for them.

Our majestic native swan, the Trumpeter Swan, I am hoping will pay us a visit soon. This very large waterfowl was almost totally wiped out; but now successful breeding programs once again allow us to enjoy these graceful birds.

But if you can’t make it to a lake or pond, just around our houses the earliest of our migrant birds are showing up. The Red-winged Blackbirds (only the males have arrived) are numerous and their full-throated song is heard in many places. Their “oakalee” song is a joyful sign of spring. One of our true sparrows (as opposed to the non-native, so-called House Sparrow which is really a weaver finch) the Song Sparrow has arrived. This handsome bird is aptly named because the males’ silvery song is beautiful and plentiful.

Close to home some birds are already preparing to nest. I have several nesting platforms under the eaves of my house and garage. I had really hoped for a pair of phoebes or Barn Swallows to nest on one. But the robins have been the only takers. Recently I was watching a Mourning Dove checking one out. I know though that this will never work. Many’s the time I have watched a female robin begin making a nest on this particular platform. She begins with dry grasses and then a wind comes up and blows it all away–this happens time and time again. I think it only works if it’s rained recently and the grasses are moist. That way they seem to adhere long enough for her to build up the base and then apply the mud with which she fashions a bowl. Doves on the other hand make a relatively flimsy nest of twigs with no mud to bind the twigs.

Frogs and toads will soon be active and ready to create the next generation. Spring Peepers are the kind that most people think of. Their characteristic peep-peep from wetlands at night is a joy of spring. Other varieties of frogs and our only species of toad will soon become vocal too. Listen for them and spare a thought for the good they all do in the web of life.

In these anxiety-ridden days where bad news seems relentless, we all need a tonic. Nature can supply that tonic. We have only to take a walk or even simply open our window. Stay well. Get out! And enjoy!

*From the first line of an untitled poem by English poet Robert Bridges

GET OUT! by Glen Spurrell

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