I had hoped spring would chase winter’s gloom into memory, but it hasn’t yet. Instead there are all these photos of hunger and snow, dating back to October.
Along with hunger and snow, this winter brought weeks of numbing cold.
I was glad I had left the bird houses hanging because I saw chickadees retreating into them at nightfall.
It’s not that winter was completely cheerless. The yard had a few winter blooms, and there were certainly days of sunshine.
But I’m ready for spring. Real spring, with hours on end of warmth and nest building and bird song.
I can’t be the only one who is fretful and impatient. Maybe that’s why it seems as if spring is embarrassed to be arriving so late. Instead of rushing in with thunder and rain-scented gusts, spring is edging into the yard like a guilty ticket holder who overslept and missed the opening scene. Bees are sluggish, the irises and pear tree bloomed while I wasn’t looking, and the house stays chilly despite bright sunshine and open windows.
I suppose I’ll be complaining about the heat, before too long, and wishing for a cool draft in the house. Because summer always follows, and fall after it. And then there will come a day, sometime in early September, when I will wish for winter. But for now all of my wishes are focused on spring.
The yard’s first bird of 2014 was a new bird for me. She showed up on New Year’s Day, but I was on my way out the door and didn’t have time to stop for a photo. Fortunately, she returned today…
(I believe this is a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I saw a juvenile sapsucker during my last trip to Alabama, but this is the first adult I’ve ever seen. Please comment if you can confirm or correct my identification!)
I followed her with my lens while she hopped from limb to limb in the pear tree, but I didn’t get a clear photo until something startled her and she paused.
She flew away a few minutes later, when a hungry squirrel climbed onto an adjoining branch.
Despite gloomy skies and an approaching storm, I can’t think of a better way to start a new year in the yard!
There’s nothing unique about this photo. Another squirrel in the bird feeder.
I usually can’t identify individual squirrels in the yard, but I suspect this one is unique. It’s smaller than many of the yard’s other squirrels, and much more cautious. Understandably so.
It seldom lingers in the feeder. Rather than settling in for a feast, it inches down the post, grabs a mouthful of seed, and retreats to the wax myrtle’s overhanging branches, where it can eat in relative safety.
It also checks the far side of the fence much more frequently than our other squirrels.
The first time I saw the tail-less squirrel bounding across our yard, I suffered a moment of intense confusion. It looked more like a very thin rabbit than a squirrel. A thin rabbit with short legs and even shorter ears. But then the strange rabbit scurried up a tree trunk, and my confusion transformed into amazement.
How does a squirrel with no tail survive in the wild? How does it balance as it races through the trees? How does it communicate, and what are its chances of reproducing?
I’m tempted to ask other questions, as well, questions rooted in human perceptions of beauty and resilience. But such questions have no answers, and the world already has too many questions that can’t be answered.
I tried to write something, to go with these pictures, but some stories don’t need words…
Earlier this week some parts of our area had overnight frost, then temperatures flared into the eighties. Bees and hover flies responded to the summer-like conditions with greatly increased activity, much to the delight of our Fourth of July rose.
Unfortunately, other insect activity also increased. The daisies and petunias were somewhat less delighted.
And this damselfly had to be rescued from an abandoned spider web.
While increasing insect activity gave me the opportunity to experiment with my camera’s macro functions, the yard’s quickening was visible on larger scales, as well. The cardinals’ nestlings fledged last week, which led to a few days of frantic visits to the feeder, followed by conspicuous absence as the little family moved on to explore other yards.
The squirrel kittens never returned, after that one brief visit, but the adult squirrels have been growing more playful and tolerant of each other as they approach the beginning of a new breeding season. Perhaps there will be more kittens, later this summer.
Perhaps there will be more of everything. Especially more long, lazy afternoons with bright pools of sunshine and breezy, open windows.
In a word, more serenity.
(During my spring flower frenzy, I bought the flowers in the above photo because their labels said “Serenity”. They are Serenity series African daisies, and I’ve planted them right beside the front door…)