Saturday, May 2, 2009

Passing season

May arrived here with heavy rain that knocked the last of the blossoms off the dogwoods. The woods are littered with fallen petals. The photo above is one of our trees at its peak, around the 3rd week in April. It's always a little sad to see all that beauty disappear, but the fading spring has some special pleasures of its own.

The rose-breasted grosbeaks have been showing up at our feeders for the past couple of weeks. There were 4 gorgeous males squabbling over the sunflower seeds today. The grosbeaks are late migrants through these parts. They don't stay to nest, and since they don't breed here, we rarely get to hear them sing. Their too-brief appearance is a sure sign that summer is not far away.

I always look forward to the reappearance of the box turtles. They don't get out and about until the weather is reliably warm. I saw my first lovable monster of the season last week. It was a large male (I think), parked right in the middle of the trail as if he owned it. He didn't even bother to retreat into his shell when I stepped over him.

And of course, one of the sweetest things about the passage from spring to summer is the arrival of the first babies. This morning as I walked the trail along the creek, a tiny, fluttering creature dropped out of the trees ahead of me. I thought it was a butterfly, which seemed bizarre since butterflies don't generally cavort in the rain. It turned out to be a chickadee fledgling, just out of the nest. He landed on a tree root sticking up from the path and perched there, slightly dazed.

Chickadee youngsters look like smaller versions of their parents, but this one still had a couple of wispy bits of down sticking out of his black cap. I tried gently to encourage him to move off the trail, where he'd be less likely to get stepped on or attract the attention of some hiker's dog, but he refused to budge. I considered moving him myself, but in my experience a chick that is picked up and relocated will immediately head straight back to the spot he chose. So I left him there to get on with his confused but determined navigation of the world.

(Click here to see some photos of chickadees in the nest.)

Photo of dogwood flowers by BitterGrace. Grosbeak photo by John Harrison from Wikimedia Commons. Chickadee photo by Ken Thomas at Wikimedia Commons, and box turtle photo by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

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