As much as Mother Nature doesn’t want to let go of winter weather, birds in our garden don’t want any part of it. Their songs are much louder now and they chase each other around in the garden a lot more too. There are a couple of things indicating spring has arrived: American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) are molting and the arrival of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor).
American Goldfinches are gregarious birds. They flock together and never stop chirping. Sometimes we have 20 or 30 of them crowding around the feeders. A male Goldfinch has very bright yellow feathers with black and white stripes on the wings in summer but he’ll molt to a greenish brown in winter. He’ll put on his brown winter coat in autumn. Many of them have that ‘rolled in the soot’ look now.
Many birds like the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) and the House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) have already paired up. The Northern Cardinals are still chasing one another around, claiming territory and mates.
We heard and saw Tree swallows that flew back from the Carolinas and only to be hit by snow the next day. They haven’t come down to check on the nest boxes yet. Hopefully they nest early enough and will not to be chased out of their usual nest box by the Bluebirds.
We had around two feet of snow last Tuesday and most of it is still on the ground. The daytime temperatures are hovering between 30 and 40°F which isn’t helping to melt it. Today is the official first day of spring but outside, you would never know it. It’s more like ‘Hello spring, where are you?’ to me. Crocuses, Hellebores and Snowdrops were completely buried under. My little cold frame looks more like a little igloo in the garden.
It’s not only me that was fooled by nature, the Robins have already made an appearance despite the snow. The American Goldfinches have started to drop their winter coats. We try to help them by providing food and water when there isn’t much out there for them besides endless snow.
I had sown some lettuce seeds inside the cold frame a couple of weeks ago because I wasn’t expecting to get this much snow around now. I’ll dig my way in there tomorrow to see how they are doing.
Though it doesn’t look like spring outside, a new cycle of life, a new season, has already begun inside the house. This is the time I usually start tomato, pepper, eggplant, Swiss chard and kale seedlings. The first three need to be done around 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost so they can have enough time to grow, bear fruits and ripen. As for the Swiss chard and kale, they like cold weather anyway so I can put them out in the garden early.
Next, is prepping tropical plants in the basement for their summer outdoors. Spring should come around the corner and stay within a few weeks. But who knows? We had snow in April.
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.