Posted by: Dave Neads | May 3, 2010

Timeless Spring

This year it is the birds and one in particular drives the point home.

Sure we have birds that winter here with us; the Grey Jays, the Chickadees, the Townsend’s Solitaire, the Nuthatches and Nutcrackers and lots of LBJs. (Little Brown Jobs).

Then sometime in mid to late March, the spring parade begins, never the exactly the same, the participants dressed in spring finery of greens, reds, golds, blacks, oranges, throbbing scarlet and creamy white brown, dance and twirl their way back into the Precipice.

This year the drum major, far ahead of the rest of the band, was a male Redwing Blackbird. He stayed for about three days in Late March. His liquid “Chee er eee” , so bountiful, so full of vibrant, virile energy, telling the world that he was back and that all other blackbirds had better take notice. He then moved on to spread the word far and wide. Soon he will be back with his flock, mysteriously rounded up from who knows where.

Then , the parade picked up, flocks of Juncos swarming the feeder, driving the winter residents up into the big pines while they had their fill. By mid April Mr. Rufous had arrived, but he was confused. He was the only one. Just two days later another male showed up and the annual sparring match was on. Just one Mrs. Rufous to date, but that doesn’t stop the pugilists from doing their spectacular twists and dives as the parade moves along.

Yesterday, the magnificent flying machines came into view, early in the morning, swooping and diving, making fighter pilots look clumsy. Swallows are the real solid part of the spring parade. When they appear, you know this isn’t just a rehearsal, it is the real thing.

Each day, we have had big floats filled with golden crowned sparrows, white crowned sparrows, gros beaks, savannah sparrows, wrens, kinglets, geese, ducks, wood peckers, sap suckers, hawks, every one returning to their special place. All in all over the years we have seen more than 50 species in the spring parade.

Every year something new happens. For several days there was a flock of 11 trumpeter swans that flew east every morning to the day pasture and flew back west over us each night to their low elevation bedroom. One year it was a pair of Loons did the same thing. They fed in one lake during the day, then flew back over us to sleep in a different one.

This morning was no exception. I was awakened in the early morning grayness by the most unsettling cacophony in the parade. Honking, choking, braying, gobbling and squawking, all mixed into one undulating sequence that was first heard as a distant rattle but soon grew to noise levels exceeded only by a garage band with the door down.

Lumbering though the early morning mists, not so much flying as flailing, these huge prehistoric looking beasts were coming home to their summer range.

Sand hill cranes are, to me, the essence of the spring parade. Ancient beyond knowing, these time travelers have been making the annual trek for millions of years. More flying dinosaur than birds, these Cranes connect my spirit with the eons.

And that is the point. The spring parade is timeless. We humans are newly arrived, barely aware of the rhythms and mysteries of the spring festival. Part of the tides of life on this planet, the spring Mardi Gras is a humbling reminder of just who and where we are.


  1. good to have you back! Thanks for sharing your bird parade.

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