There has been one snow storm after another and the official spring date is still more than a month away. Our garden is covered a foot deep in snow crusted with ice. The cold frame we put up last fall has become an igloo at this point. I have no idea what has happened in there since I can’t have access without digging my way in through snow. I’ve left the honey bees alone. The only sign that there are live bees in the hives is the fresh dead bees I found on top of the snow around the garden.
It was very sunny and no wind today so I braved a low 30º F, in my knee-high boots, to stomp around inspecting the garden. As much snow as there is on the ground, there are many signs that spring is not too far away. I always see the arrival of American Robins (Turdusmigratorius) as an indication that spring will be here soon enough. Today was the second time I’ve seen a large flock of Robins come around.
Aside from Robins, the male Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) no longer keep to their truce. They seem to keep close to their female companions now and chase other full grown males around the yard. The Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are also looking for nesting spots now and no longer just coming to the garden for food.
The American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) are starting to shed their winter coats. There are little bits of yellow tipped grey down here and there on the snow, and the birds are beginning to show spring colors in bright yellow blotches.
With a lineage that stretches all the way back to the dinosaurs, I figure the birds know better than I.
It’s only the second week of May but five bird families have already settled down in our garden, as far as I can see. Two pairs of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have decided to build their nests here: one has taken a nest box in the front yard and one at the corner of the vegetable garden. The same spots they nested in last year, actually. The Eastern Blue Birds (Sialia sialis) have also taken the same nest box as last year. The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) has built their own nest in a Rhododendron. We will have to wait for the chicks to fledge before we can prune the shrub. We can see the female sitting on her eggs from the bay window. The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) took one of the nest boxes in the front. The Chickadees seem to move around the garden very year. The Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) have been checking our patio ceiling for a perfect spot, but we try our best to discourage them. Our experience with the Robins nested there one year, wasn’t pleasant. Those are the ones whose nests I can see.
We have plenty of American Goldfinches (Carduelis trisis) who stay with us year round. Most of the males have already shed their winter coats. The Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are still courting and claiming territory. We also have more visitors from the North, Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus), this year. Not counting the other residents like three or four different kinds of sparrows and woodpeckers, our garden needs air traffic control.
This year we also have an infrequent visitor, Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus). They come around once in a while. At this moment I ‘m waiting for the Columbine to bloom so I can put the Hummingbird feeders up to welcome the Ruby-throated hummingbirds back from Central America.