Almost Spring

Nothing matches Spring Migration. Not only are the birds stunning, vibrant, in full breeding plumage, but there’s also a spring migration birding euphoria that sets in among birders. Part of the excitement and adrenalin rush can be attributed to 4-5 am risings (which, if you’re anything like me, is obscenely early), but one’s waking time notwithstanding spring birds are amazing. And remarkably short-lived. There’s something wonderfully ephemeral about the very concept of spring migration which only lasts for 4 or 5 weeks in May, and yet I’m never entirely sad when May is over, because I know that whatever I didn’t catch this time I’ll be able to see the following year. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything ephemeral and yet also eternally recurrent. Birds really are fascinating!

What I realized today, on one of my typical should-have-seen-but-didn’t-see days, on a day that was exciting in spite of the fact that nothing spectacular was seen and yet hundreds of kilometers were driven, is that almost-spring is just as thrilling as spring itself. We didn’t see much, but we saw many firsts of the season. My first Robin of 2011 (the bird, Turdus migratorius, not my dear friend the fabulous crime writer, whose second book, Death Plays Poker, is coming out in Fall 2011, for all you crime-fiction lovers out there), my first Killdeer, Grackle, Sandhill crane. Nothing new or particularly earth-shattering, but all new for this year. I recognized all the birds from last year, there was nothing new in them, and that alone made me come away with a sense of triumph. There is comfort in the recurrent and in the fact that I now know exactly what’s to come. I know that all these seemingly ordinary birds are actually harbingers of the extraordinary songbird fest that will begin in just five weeks. And that alone adds to their magic.

The piece-de-resistance today was a female Cardinal:

She certainly isn’t as triumphantly red as her male counterpart, but she caught my eye nonetheless. She was self assured and held her own with the grackles and juncos. I was filled with admiration for her and her reddish-pink coloring around her wings; I’ve long been trying to find that precise shade of lipstick… the quest continues. I even saw two swans flirting, somewhere near Long Point Provincial park — they were doing that thing Swans often do, where they lean their necks toward each other and (unintentionally?) the gesture looks like they’re making a heart. Very Valentines-day-esque, if you ask me. Oh, and one last thing: we even saw two Great Horned Owls.

Did I mention that almost-Spring is a perfect time?

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