So, Spring…Wait, What?

img_5959

The National Weather Service forecast for our area posts a winter weather advisory until 8:00 am tomorrow. In the past 24 hours we have had freezing temperatures, sleet, snow, rain and high winds. Granted, a couple of those might happen during any spring, but still, a winter weather advisory?

It certainly looks like winter out there. Those few flowers starting to come up are coated in ice. Low clouds hide the mountains. The landscape is gray and white. Spring means green, but not today. The roads are a slick mess. A couple of Meadowlarks have been floating over the cold field. What can they do? Insects are frozen. Any potential nest sites are iced over. They are not singing today.

img_5960Last Tuesday was Free Cone Day. Every year Ben and Jerry’s offers up free cones for anyone who comes to a scoop shop. I was at Norwich University for the day and, since I was passing through Waterbury on the way home, I went to the factory store for a free cone. It was snowy and chilly and gray that day. There was a long line. I walked up to the flavor graveyard. I said to myself “oh I loved that flavor!” a couple of times, then walked back down. The line was even longer by then, snaking down the walkway. I left without getting a free cone. There were a lot of people waiting in line outside for free ice cream on such a cold day. Hardy folks like their ice cream.

It keeps raining. The rain keeps freezing on whatever surface it finds. Even the Song Sparrows are quiet, and they sing in all kinds of weather. Maybe this afternoon the weather will ease up enough that I can head out and see the world a bit. Maybe I will head to the market for some ice cream. But maybe not. I’m not sure, really, how hardy I am.

 

Dude, so dang gorgeous

IMG_5330

For the past week or so I keep repeating various takes on the phrase “Good god it is beautiful around here.” I mean, it is just stunning where I live this time of year. You have your pink apple blossoms next to red barns, white trilliums carpeting forest floors, rust-colored maple buds. Leaves creep up the hillsides. Grass is suddenly knee high. Green and yellow are everywhere. My eyes keep popping.

Peepers sing as the sun sets. Snipes whistle their ghostly whistles in the darkness before the sun rises. For the how-many-I-can’t-count time I say aloud something like, “I can’t believe how different it was just two months ago.” Two months ago it was cold and frosty and quiet. Now? Lush. Cacophonous.

Fiddleheads have unfurled into ferns. Wild leeks have started to dim. Colt’s Foot’s yellow flowers are faded. Now the dandelions and maple leaves take their turn. Summer has packed it’s bags. It will be here any day now.

Birding or Running?

IMG_5151

Look for flycatchers and warblers? Or run the trail around the pond?

Now that it is May I am conflicted. The best time to go for a run for me is first thing in the morning. If I go early I have the least impact on my family, plus it just gets done. Putting it off means sometimes other things get in the way. If I go early, I go. The best time to go birding, however, is also first thing in the morning.

At first light the birds start singing their dawn chorus and, right now, the leaves are still not fully formed. So I can hear birds and see them. Migrants are passing through as well, so some birds can only be seen now since they don’t stick around to nest here. So what is a guy to do?

On the one hand I have been running a good amount, and I have not been injured. So I want to make sure I keep that streak going. But it is not easy to run in the morning when I hear all those songs. I hear something different and I just want to stop to find out what it is. And I do. But without binoculars (I am not carrying those on a run) it can be hard to see a little warbler way up in a birch tree. So I get stymied figuring out what it is. That means I am not really getting the most from my run and I am not really birding. I need to pick.

Rainy days in May are good for running, not because they make for the best runs but because it is harder to hear and see birds. In fact, I would have gone running this morning, but I had to take half the family to the airport. That means I did not bird or run. Some mornings are like that. But if it is raining when I wake? Grab the running shoes.

Mostly I need to get out to find birds now. This really is a small window. Soon the trees will be fully leafed out and those warblers will be way more elusive. And those birds don’t sing for long–in a month and a half they will start to quiet down. And those migrants? Need to find them while they are here.

So I need to get in some runs, for sure, but it is May, for goodness’ sake. This is the birder’s month in Vermont. It used to be the best month for running but since I have gotten into birding I am torn. It is a fortunate problem to have, is it not?

Biking and Sunshine

IMG_5140

We took a trip up to Stowe yesterday. The last time I was there it was cold and snowy and we lugged our skis to the ski lift to enjoy some turns on the slopes. Yesterday we had bikes instead of skis. Our kids have new bikes. Children keep growing, apparently. The last time they had new bikes was years ago. Those bikes look silly now.

Stowe has a fantastic recreation path–five miles end to end. We rode from one end to the other. That ten miles seemed easy, even though we all were a bit rusty with the bike riding. The air smelled of grass and thawing dirt and manure and cold air slipping away. We wore shorts.

My kids, as one of them said to me, “kicked my butt” by zooming ahead. At the beginning of our ride I was advised by my son to slow down. I guess I slowed down too much. But we all ended up at the same place, and we all enjoyed a ride on a doozy of a fine day. Snow still graced the mountains but trout lilies and wild leeks graced the forest floor. I kept feeling my usual awe at the changing of the seasons. I wasn’t all that worried about getting my butt kicked.

Later, after we had gotten home and had dinner, we went out for another short ride. We rode up the hill and down and over the other way. It continued to be a stellar day. We watched the sun get low and the trees glow golden with their young leaves. We did not rush but we broke a sweat nonetheless. We all felt great when we got home. And we all slept well, ready to embrace another winner of day today. So far, we have not been disappointed.

IMG_5135

Fine Spring Day

IMG_6244

Green is coming out. In the yard, daffodils are blooming, white and yellow. Azaleas have popped. Grass is starting to stand up. Spring? I believe so.

I was up early, out to find birds. Otter Creek was flooded. Ducks were scarce at the usual spot by the boat launch. The boat launch was under water. But ducks were abundant in the flooded fields. Shovelers! Ring-Necked Ducks! Plus Mallards and Canada Geese and Wood Ducks. I saw my first Spotted Sandpiper of the year.

Heading home from the ducks I decided to make an extra stop. I walked through Williams Woods. Ruby Crowned Kinglets sang in the brush. Pine Warblers sang in the tops of white pines. A Carolina Wren teakettled far off. And green, trout lilies included, crept across the forest floor.

Clouds gave way to sun but then came back. It is cool but feels warm after those winter days. Rain showers now. I need to get out and pull some early dandelions and grass that is butting in on the flower beds. I might plant some more flowers. The bulbs I planted in the fall are peeking up through the dirt. Soon the world will be a chaos of plants.

Already I think ahead to mowing the field, in July. The meadowlarks are singing, along with Savannah Sparrows. Woodcocks, however, never came back. That is our spring mystery. Where did the Woodcocks go? Or did that final winter storm do them in? Soon we will crank up the lawnmower, and sleep on the porch, and swing in the hammock.

But now we need to enjoy spring–the dawn chorus, the sweet smell of new growth, the wild leeks in the woods. The world feels and smells new.

Wondrous, that’s what it is. Wondrous.

April Rain and Mud

IMG_6206

It rained all day. Roads got muddy. Sky were gray. April. A cold rain. Not the kind to spend the day in. Not a summer rain that ends in sun. At night, after the rain stopped, it froze. Mud got icy.

I walked to the river. It ran high. Water gushed under the bridge and under the extra culverts installed a few years ago. Spring rains would flow over the road. They don’t now. They flood the field on the other side.

The fields all along the river were flooded. Shallow ponds formed. Geese and ducks swam and fed. They avoided the river. It flowed too fast. I tried to see what kind of ducks they were. I saw some mallards. The rest hid behind vegetation.

Despite the rain, song sparrows kept singing. I could not hear them as well as other days. Rain muffled their songs. I had a hood on. My boots sloshed on the road. A phoebe, finally back for spring, tried to sing as well.

When I turned back, rain hit my face. There was not much wind, but I walked into it. I pulled my hood lower. Rain fell harder. I looked down again toward other flooded fields. A kestral perched on a leafless ash tree. Its feathers were soaked. I would say it was not perturbed but it seemed to be waiting. I walked past.

I hung my rain jacket to dry. I listened to rain pelting the roof. The lawn, not yet really awake, oozed. Snow lingers in the shadowed spots. It won’t last long. I picked up a book and disappeared.

IMG_6207

Daylight Savings. Ugh.

IMG_4712

I don’t really like to complain. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel worse, in fact. It is petty and a waste of time. Who doesn’t know this? But we all do it anyway. No matter how privileged or lucky we are, we all have something worthy of our complaining. My most recent beef is with daylight savings time.

Twice each year it makes me grumpy. Frankly, I don’t see the point. Over a decade ago the dates were pushed around, the idea being to save more energy by introducing more daylight into the workday. That didn’t work out so well. No one later demonstrated that any energy was really saved. I’ve heard the other reasons as well. Farmers benefit from more light early in the morning, or later in the morning. It isn’t as dark in the morning when children wait for the bus. But really?

Here is what happens for me in the spring. The days slowly get a little longer starting in December. I wait until March for the light to finally drop over the mountains at a reasonable hour. I can get up and go for a run at 6:00 a.m. and not need a headlamp or a reflector vest. I can rise before work and see the day. I go outside in the light before I get ready to head to work. It is a fine thing. And then daylight savings comes along and throws that all off. I hate that crap.

Now, I have to wait many days before the day is light enough at 6:00 am to go for a run. And for what? I just don’t get it. Why can’t we just pick one way for the clocks to be and stick to it? This is the 21st century. Artificial light has made daylight savings obsolete. It is bogus.

Here is something else, from today. I went in early to work with a group of high school students. At this particular school I don’t usually get there until 8:00 at the earliest. I am lucky to have that flexibility. But today I agreed to work with a first period class. So imagine working with a group of teenagers starting at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday. They are sleepy and not at their best. They are sluggish and mentally less sharp than later in the day or later in the week. And then imagine you are starting at 6:30 instead of 7:30. I tried to be lively, but the day was off to a slow start.

I will get used to it. Complaining does not help. I need to adjust. There are many things worse in the world right now (Um, “microwaves that turn into cameras?” Who knew?) I know all that crap. I still hate it. And I will get used to it. I will get used to it and then the clocks will need to be turned back again in the fall. And I will hate it all over again.