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Rural Roots - Rural Roots is a column by Fred Jones
2013-05-03 at 10:43

Birds returning on time, spring late

The call was unmistakable: the Sandhill Crane. I was collecting garbage on the screen porch preparing to cart it to the truck it being dump day.

There they were, male and female, later Mom and Dad if last year was anything to go by.  The two, tall magnificent birds stood on a large mound of earth I call Destiny’s Mountain after one of our horses, who likes to run up to the top and stand with mane and tail streaming out behind her. Everywhere I looked there was snow except for the very top of the hill that boasted a bare patch.  The birds were pecking at the soil. What could they be eating? Here they are on time and spring is horrendously late.   

I re-entered Casa Jones and called down to my wife Laura to alert her of the birds presence. “Come upstairs, Hon, and see the Sandhill Cranes,” I urged. 

When she arrived, I handed her the binoculars and pointed.  Laura stood for 10 seconds and then sighed: “Poor birds.  I bet they weren’t expecting all this snow.” Nope. Bet they weren’t. This prolonged stay of winter has not been kind to returning birds.

We’d been thinking about our feathered friends ever since we first saw geese flying over our farm a couple of weeks ago. The ice wasn’t off of the rivers let alone the lakes and ponds. But over the past couple of days ‘things have warmed up’ as they say.  All of that un-asked-for snow has depleted rapidly although not quickly enough for me.  Given the unexpected turn of weather that ‘blessed’ us with more snow last weekend, we prayed the thermometer would inch up and stay where, instead of snow, we’d get rain. Better yet, how about warm sun?

The ravens, of course, never leave.  They are omnivorous beings and are among the creatures that clean up the forest of dead things. The returning crows made their presence known last week.  Never had crows in residence before last year and I am not keen on them.  Much prefer our ravens.

Saturday I opened the basement door to allow my dog Cedric outside. The sun was high in the morning sky. I peered out and heard off in the bush a robin cheerfully chirping its territorial call or perhaps it was yelling in disbelief. I shook my head thinking ‘Poor thing.  The worms aren’t out yet.  What will you eat to survive?’

Ol’ Sol did his job Saturday and a lot more snow disappeared leaving giant puddles all over the yard and along the driveway. When I awoke Sunday, the bedroom window was spotted with rain.  I made my way to the kitchen to make coffee and observed the puddles in the yard were being danced with gentle raindrops. Even though the day remained cloudy with as they say “scattered showers,” more grass and soil had been revealed for the first time since November.  Goodie. Well, almost goodie until I looked at what had to be cleaned up after a winter of three dogs.

So ‘things’ are looking up. Warm, spring aromas have replaced the smell or maybe non-smell of cold. The ground is thawing; ditches and streams are running with melt-water; pussy willows have appeared on willow branches.  Oh yeah, and hundreds of cluster flies have also appeared covering the walls of our house and truck. This, too, shall pass.

Two weeks ago I was driving home from town with my son Doug.  I saw a flock of geese rise from a snow-covered field and head north. “Oh look, Doug, the geese are returning.” Doug looked and then shouted “You’re DOOMED!!” I laughed and then wondered out loud indeed how they were going to survive?

They will, and so will the robins and Sandhill Cranes. Minute by minute more earth is being revealed.  A glance at our beaver pond indicates open water,  enough for some geese and perhaps a drink for the cranes. 

Now spring cleaning outside can really begin. “Hear that, dogs?”

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