March 27 2012. We are emerging from one of the mildest winters on record. Yesterday I heard one observer who was just celebrating her 67th birthday, say that the year of her birth, 1945, holds the last record of such winter warmth.
But records count for nothing if you’re a tree. Today I walked along a wooded shoreline and noted that many non-native plants had been fooled and had sprung into greenery, Tartarian Honeysuckle and Garlic Mustard in particular, while native trees are generally following their own ancient wisdom sort of along the lines of my grandmother’s “Ne’r cast a clout ‘til May be out.”
Bird life was quiet too although a raft of snoozing Rudy Ducks was interesting. A Carolina Wren was singing, but refused to show itself and an adult Bald Eagle took flight causing a metaphorical and literal flap among some Double-crested Cormorants.
I watched a bonded pair of Canada Geese resist the advances of an interloper male. The male of the pair went after the stranger in furious paddle-wheeler style and struck with what may turn out to be fatal effect. His bride watched with satisfaction as her mate completed the pummeling with honks of triumph. The defeated goose is much the worse for wear; he might never fly again. Here he is.
The charm of the morning came from noting hundreds of Tree Swallows skimming over the lake’s surface picking at insect food. Tree Swallows, like Eastern Phoebes, are one of our earliest arrivals, certainly way ahead of most insectivores. A late cold spell can be disastrous for them, there are many late cold weather records of desperate feeding behaviour, starvation and even reverse migrations. They are welcome back and they’re my Bird of the Day. Here’s one from late last spring.