Here they come: the longer days; higher temperatures; robins; snowdrops ... wait ... what? Are you kidding me? More snow? But it's spring!
It's been spring for a week here in Southwestern Connecticut and on one day we really saw, felt and smelled it. The persistent sun heated the ground enough not only to allow daylilies and onion grass shoots to penetrate the dark, compact soil, but also to send that soothing aroma of things gone and passed to our collective conscience. We enjoyed temperatures that reached a full 63 degrees. Crocuses and snowdrops smiled and giggled in a soft breeze and our robins danced and swayed on a softer, waking lawn.
"Cheeri-up, cheeri-o" goes the robin's song;
Searching for worms and grubs, he hops along.
Over through the leaves and the flattened grass; "cheeri-up, cheeri-o," a fine meal at last!
The spring season is unpredictable and as such, can be inconvenient for us, but what about the birds who return here from their southern range, cued by the passage of time and change in temperature? Just lately, I've seen and heard the handsome male red-winged blackbird. The red-winged blackbird travels more than 2,000 miles from where he spends the winter months in Mexico, to our area where he will find a mate and together build a nest and lay eggs. When the balmy, spring weather inevitably returns temporarily to the frigid days and nights of winter, the weary traveler can find some sustenance in the form of insects and insect larva under leaves, stones and branches. There may be some early buds he can feast on, too, and the nuts and seeds from backyard feeders.
Wetland marshes, with their typical cattails and grasses, are preferred habitat for the red-winged blackbird when raising a family. If you haven't got a marsh in your neighborhood, find out where one is and take a ride.
Bring along binoculars so that when you hear the male's song, a rather harsh but loud "conk-la-reeee," you can spot him in his bright red and yellow epaulets against all black feathers! Females are less impressive looking and arrive back in the north shortly after their male counterparts.
It's so pleasing to hear our migrants join in the chorus of those that have been with us all winter long. Like the beautiful cardinal singing "cheer, cheer, cheer" from the tree tops early each morning, I feel like cheering, too.
As of this writing, I have spent 162 nights out in a tent in my backyard. I am so looking forward to the warmer weather (if only so that I don't have to bundle up in, and sleep under, so many layers!)
My aim is to spend the better part of a year out under the stars in my small patch of woods, up a short hill and 65 feet from my back door. I am in awe of nature and try to respect it in every way, each day. I want to show you that wherever you live, nature is right beside you, as it has been for eternity.
Spring continues and so does our story.
Nina Miller is a Darien resident.