Saw a sign yesterday that read, “Spring is coming soon.” That’s something we’re all wondering about, even in Kentucky, where we’ve been having an unusually cold March, which makes it hard to believe the Kentucky Derby is merely six weeks away. They say it may be related to melting glaciers changing our wind patterns.
But the real sign nature is about to turn generous was yesterday’s afternoon delight in seeing my goldfinch friends, busy at their feeder, newly returned from their long and distant migration. I remember late October when suddenly they were gone, the absence of their aerial eagerness and bright collusion of yellow and black; the silence and loneliness of it, like saying good bye to a good friend who had brought abundant joy, “A quality of loss/Affecting our discontent” (Dickinson, “A Light Exists in Spring”).
I’m not a member of the Audubon Society, but I quite understand their love for birds with their bright plumage and merry song. I think of St. Francis of Assisi whose kindness the birds reputedly reciprocated by sitting on his shoulders. Sometimes I think they take their own measure of me in their aerial hideaways when I replenish their several feeders in our backyard.
Birds need our help these days more than ever. I just read the other day that an estimated 100 million birds are killed worldwide each year by outdoor cats and other scavengers.
Diminishing canopy of forest and brush, draining of wetlands, and climate change add to the toll. Squirrels and other rodents raid their nests, devouring eggs and young hatchlings.
Migration itself can be costly, with many killed and injured, caught in storms or flying into buildings, and sometimes planes. Many are blown off course and show up in risky environs. I feel bad that each year several of them smash themselves into our sunroom windows and I am left with their still warm bodies.
Some of them, hawks, are wantonly shot by farmers who see them as predators. I had an unpleasant experience in New Zealand in hearing of a crusty elderly man who had nothing better to do than shoot hawks as everyday pastime in that gorgeous Taranaki countryside of lush greenery. In Kentucky, especially in the mountains, hawk-killing takes on a compulsion.
Down the road and around the curve, I often see a sentry red tail hawk on a high telephone wire. I like what I see when I drive past His Majesty.
I relish reading good poetry and there are poems, great ones by Keats and Shelley, Hopkins and Dickinson, that wonderfully excel in depicting the splendor of birds like “Ode to a Nightingale, “Ode to a Skylark,” “The Windhover,” “A Bird Came Down the Walk” and, sometimes their sadness as in Angelou’s moving “I know why the Caged Bird Sings.”
But I began with the subject of Spring and so Keats’ question of “Where are the songs of spring?” (“Autumn”) comes to mind and finds its answer, for me at least, in yesterday’s return of my yellow-jacketed friends. Let Spring’s sweet song begin!
- Reifel Bird Sanctuary – Song Sparrow (myphotoyear2012.wordpress.com)