Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Signs of Spring

After yesterday’s challenging hike in the national park, where snow still dominates the trails in spite of our Spring-like temperatures, today I opted for something a bit less physical. I headed for the bike-and-hike trail that offers relatively good birding and lots of flat pathways.
Turns out there was a challenge of a different sort. A friend used to say, “When winter’s snow melts, the first signs of Spring; the first things to come up, are cigarette butts and dog shit.” Oh, so true.
Navigating around the telltale brown piles and not slipping on the melting ice proved worthy of the category—challenging.
This was all offset by the first dawn chorus of the season. The musical was dominated by Northern Cardinals in their cheerleader-red outfits. Close behind were the many Pine Siskins that have been wintering in the Cleveland area, finding it more to their liking than the Arctic tundra. The chickadees and titmice, which sing year round, were vocal as usual. Song Sparrows and American Tree Sparrows were joined by an occasional Field Sparrow and melodic White-throated Sparrows. Percussion was ably handled by Down Woodpeckers with the occasional drumming of a Red-bellied Woodpecker. A laughing commentary was offered by a pair of out-of-sight Pileated Woodpeckers. A voice I do not usually hear in the dawn chorus turned out to be a Cooper’s Hawk. When the Carolina Wren jumped in with his part, things really got hopping. Song Sparrows I had not noticed began to sing. I even heard a few tentative notes from the resident Northern Mockingbird, which signaled to another mockingbird I had not seen, to jump up and take notice. When I reached the 2.5 mile point I sat down to just listen and quit fighting the ankle-twisting ice—and the afore mentioned poop. I dug deep into my daypack for that energy bar that’s been in there someplace, all Winter. I found it. Damn! Turns out to have peanut butter in it and I know it’s on the recall list.
The words of (I think) singer Robbie Roberson, formerly of The Band, came ringing through. He once told a class of graduating college seniors to, “Watch what you eat and where you step.” Still good advice.