Spring is a man agonizingly slow process in Coastal Maine. It’s a matter of being by a body of water where size really matters. The reasonably large lake on whose shore I spent my childhood had a climate moderation effect but that body pales in comparison to the Atlantic Ocean. The slow spring rollout that means days of biting wind and low temperatures mean I do drive-bys along the nearest marshes looking and listening for early arrivals. Things had been quiet with occasional sightings of Mallard ducks and Canada Geese but this week there was a glorious reward as a lone Great Egret stood fishing in that cold marsh water, ice still edging the shady spots, the marsh grasses still dead and brown, at least on the surface. I rolled down my window and shouted “Welcome Back” as an excited, obnoxious, human might when spotting this beloved creature.. In the months when it is possible I always drive the long way round when I’m running errands to take in as much marsh peeping as I can. It’s the egrets, the Greats and the Snowys, that my eyes seek wanting to soak in the grace and beauty of their being.
The week provided another bird sighting treat when I spotted a Killdeer in a bare dirt field. I’d not seen a Killdeer since I lived in northern Vermont so many years ago. I loved watching their fakey broken wing ruse used to divert any potential threat away from their ground nests. Looking like it’s a shore bird, instead you mostly find it in unplowed fields in early spring. They nest in precarious places as farmers and gardeners begin Turing over soil to begin planting. Be careful dear Killdeer.
I also heard the twrrr of newly arrived Red Wings Blackbirds coming from the marsh as I approached with car windows open. Alas, I didn’t get sight of them and had only the joy of their song, a harbinger of spring arrival to so many who live their bright wing flashes.
Today, while retrieving a package delivered to the porch, I startled aTom and his eleven hens who were foraging for leftover bird seed near the porch. My presence startled them and they began a slow retreat down into the parking lot. How huge and magnificent they are! Just a while later I glanced up to see that these turkeys had migrated to the ocean side lawn, seemingly finding some kind of food in the meager grass that tries to grow in the spot where salt spray often soaks the ground that then gets baked by a relenting sun. The turkeys didn’t seem to mind my presence as I was behind window glass. They seemed aware yet not bothered by how physically close to them I was. The Tom went in and out of full display for his eleven hens and I was able to clearly see the fan and side feathers in detail.
A day later a Common Flicker was searching the same ground looking deceptively small and nondescript compared to it’s flashing feathers in flight, yellow gold undersides with jaunty black feather patches and that marvelous strip of red.
This must be a time of hunger for the early arrivals as well as for the year rounders as they forage before things have truly thawed or sprouted anew. I feed the little birds in the cold months and it is always challenging trying to decide when the feeders come down for the summer. It seems it should be when the new hatchlings are learning to find food for themselves. I love to cooperate, to see if I can help them get through winter safely, but never wanting to feed them so much as to keep them from their natural food sources. There are arguments about feeding any wildlife including the songbirds. Surely there is “an answer” but I’m not sure I have it. I’d not planned on feeding them this winter at all until the pandemic made me critically aware of the precariousness of survival of all living things. I knew I needed the daily joy of watching the little birds visiting the porch, bright and cheery creatures, visitors during a lonely and isolated time. Feeling useful in this small way helped getting through the months of bleak and cold.
If I’m not yet able to swoon over glorious red tulips nor bask in the yellow joy of Forsythia, I can take comfort in the return of the Egrets which will have to hold me until full blown colors sprout everywhere and the sun’s warmth can again directly warm bare skin.
I wonder what sun feels like on a feathered body.