Monday, March 20, 2017

And Spring Slips In



According to those who monitor these things, spring arrived at 6:29 this morning. For days now, I've been listening to the birds, noticing how different their songs are as they sing about the passing of yet another winter into memory. Oh sure, we might get a few more flakes or maybe even another full-fledged weather "event." But as the earth turns her face toward the sun, anything the clouds send down from here on out won't create much of an impact and will be gone much more quickly.

It's interesting to note that, while I wasn't up at that time this morning, I was awake, listening to a loud symphony of crow music outside my window. I do sometimes get up a bit sooner than that and toss some bread out, and it seems I've created some sort of ritual in the process, as it doesn't take long for the crows to swoop in from somewhere to get at the scraps before the turkeys and gulls and squirrels do. But beyond that, I also heard a cardinal, and the tufted titmouse was finally singing its spring notes.

Not long ago, a snow-removal crew shoveled all the snow off the roofs here, and they bent my shepherd's hook over in the process. At the time, the ground was still frozen solid, so I couldn't do anything about it. Yesterday, though, I was easily able to bend it back to some measure of straightness, as the soil it's standing i was very pliable and cooperative. I also shoveled some of the snow away, exposing more of that soil in the process. And now, that whole area is bare and dark brown against the surrounding banks, a welcome sight for these winter-weary eyes.

One thing is certain: if the temperature does approach 50 degrees F. today, as predicted, there will be plenty of melting going on. The trees are also ready to leaf out, as is evidenced by the fat swollen buds on the ends of the maple branches across the parking lot. I read somewhere that the maple sap stopped flowing once the weather turned cold again, so hopefully the tappers will be in business again now that the days are warming...

...which they can't help but do as the earth turns her face toward the sun and continues to do so at the rate of 1,000 miles per hour until what snow there is no longer stands a chance.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Our Daily Bread

Through the years, I've made it a practice to dispose of any stale or moldy bread that I happen to have by tossing it outside to the birds. And during that time, I've come to also be familiar with what is known as bird bread. From doing this for so long, I've also come to learn which avian species most appreciate my handouts and which couldn't be bothered. And I've come away from it with some interesting facts as well as a storehouse of memories watching the birds actually going at it when several slices of bread fly out a window or the front door and onto the grass.
While some might argue that there is indeed a method to it from the point of view of what's easiest for the birds to deal with, I've found that it really doesn't matter. If they're hungry enough, which they almost always are, they are prepared to deal with everything from small pieces to entire slices without much ado. The important thing here is that the bread is there, and they don't seem to be too bothered by what form it happens to be in.
Here, on a Saco, Maine (USA) side street, the property lends itself well to distributing the bread either from the front door or from a rear living room window. There are screens on all the windows here, and I have intentionally left the screen off one rear window off all winter so that I can toss the goodies out there. Not only do the birds benefit, but the squirrels are often up for a bread meal as well, so nothing is ever wasted. And that's not even taking into consideration the nocturnal animals, such as raccoons and skunks, that clean up anything that might be left behind while the rest of the animal population sleeps.
During the nearly two years I've lived here, I've had the honor of sharing my daily bread with crows, wild turkeys, blue jays, and seagulls. The latter are the brutish scavengers that swoop in aggressively, having spied, sometimes from a great distance, the incongruous objects on the lawn before heading this way to clean up. And it doesn't take them long either, for they are perfectly capable of swallowing multiple slices of bread whole, their necks swelling in unbridled and bestial gluttony. Meanwhile, the crows, the very ones who are the first of a morning to send out the call that it's breakfast time, stand off to the side, hoping that some tidbit is overlooked, which rarely happens when the gulls are involved.
If the local flock of resident wild turkeys is present, some interesting confrontations sometimes ensue between the two larger species, with the turkeys running at the gulls in an effort to chase them off. That's not usually effective, though, as the gulls simply take to the air where they circle around until it's safe to land again. Following this feeding frenzy, there is usually not much left, but it's interesting to note that the smaller birds, such as juncos and titmice, manage to find some wee bit to eat, something too small and insubstantial for the larger birds to bother with.
To keep the smaller fry happily satiated, I've been known to stand at the kitchen counter breaking the stale bread up into tiny pieces fit only for them. Too insubstantial to be noticed by the gulls, they do appeal to the turkeys, which, like their other poultry cousins, subsist by spending vast amounts of time pecking at whatever the ground has to offer. It is only after that when the smallest species move in, undisturbed, to glean what is left with their small bills.
The old adage of "waste not want not" applies here, for indeed, nothing IS. I've been doing this for so long now that it no longer even occurs to me to toss a moldy half-loaf of bread into the trash. Instead, I automatically and instinctively take the bag to the door or window and start tossing. While nothing is wasted in the end, there is also much to be gained in the knowledge that I'm helping to get my feathered friends through another winter as I share with them each day "our daily bread."