It is spring. Cormac’s birthday generally fall on or about the equinox, so the start of season is well-marked in the household. The weather’s taken a step back from full endorsement of it, but the season pushes on largely mindless it would seem to temperature shifts. I had my binoculars this evening to detect any new seasonal arrivals in the population at the edge of the fields, but my ears – at least at first – were what I relied on. A little part of me was hoping that I’d hear the end-of-day songs of the catbirds or wood thrushes that are so thick through here mid-spring, confirming the calendar and spiting the cold. And I thought I heard a thrush in the distance, but it was I think more longing than clear attention to the sound. As I got further out into the fields and closing on on the woods I heard it again as a plushy bunch of notes and a burr: song sparrows. So they’re here, and I can add them to the tally with the redwing blackbirds and the bluebirds.
As I closed around the far side of the fields I thought I saw a couple swallows perched atop mullein stalks near the line of woods. That would be a welcome sign. I brought the binoculars up, and realized how long it had been since I’d brought them along. The birds didn’t move as I was adjusting and readjusting the lenses and the hinge between the barrels, so much that I had half-decided they were tufts of leave fiber or remnants of flowers. But then I had the focus working, and it was clear that the tails were too long for tree swallows. As I moved closer, it was also clear that even accounting for magnification the birds were much larger than swallows. And then they took flight, and as I watched through the glasses it became clear that I was watching a couple kestrels come to see if the field mice were moving. Then three. I thought I had seen one in a sycamore the other day, and it was nice to have it confirmed that they were around.
Watching them watch for signs of spring would be a sign, if I needed it, but in truth kestrels are always around if usually out of sight. But I as I turned back I noticed even in the twilight that the underbrush in the woods had sprouted that green haze of new leaf that will soon render the entire woods somewhat blurry in aspect for about a week before leaves and then flowers begin to unfold with increasing force. Sign enough.
But not all of the winter birds have left, and on my way back a largish flock of several dozen juncos, or snowbirds, as some people apparently call them, crossed my path cheeping loudly.