Ice Retreats, Spring Edges In

At the end of February, cold and frozen, spring seems far away. However, the days are noticeably longer and the odd spate of warmth creates patches of brown in the snow. But no matter the weather, the inevitable signs of new season show up.

Mom and Pop goose have arrived for yet another year. They keep away from other geese and graze in their usual spot just over the pasture fence.

Canada geese and ducks begin to arrive and gather in crowds on the along the edge of the frozen pond. When there is a bit of melting, they swim. When the cold nights freeze again, they are forced back to shore. At the bird feeder, red-winged blackbirds appear and the dark-eyed juncos depart for their summer in the north.

Red-winged blackbird putting on a show for the ladies.

Walking to school, as a kid, the trill of the red-winged blackbirds from the marsh was a delightful sound. It meant we could soon shed winter footwear and put on shoes. The first day in shoes, after trudging along in heavy galoshes, always felt like walking on air.

Red cedar, dead in the last drought, finally blown down across the fence.
The mute swans raise a family here every year.

Not long after the geese, the pair of mute swans fly in. Odd as they look standing about on the ice, they are already eager to set up house and get started on this year’s family. They are an invasive species from Eurasia, aggressive, territorial and eating large amounts of aquatic plants other birds need. Very ornamental though.

Hunter’s blind from deer season, complete with green plastic chair. Beer cans and cigarette butts reveal how the time inside was spent.

I hike back in the fields and see that the wind has taken cedars that died in the last major drought, smack down on the fences. Farther back, I discover a mesh of cedar branches which turns out to be a hunting blind built by some hunter in hunting season. It is placed to spot deer venturing out into the open. It is complete with green plastic chair, empty beer cans and a carpet of cigarette butts on the ground. Someone was a heavy smoker. Perhaps I will try it out in the summer as a photography blind.

Bronzed grackle, back from a balmy winter in Mexico, watching with its eerie yellow eyes.

No doubt there are plenty more surprises but I will have to wait until the water blocking the lane goes down and the sticky black mud dries enough to get near the pond. Meanwhile, green blades of grass show where the snow gives way and, no doubt, the indestructible thistle crop is busily plotting how far it can spread this year. Still to come is the final sign of spring: the busy march of ants across the kitchen counter.

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