Like everything else at this time, you can either get into the flow of stuff going on, or not, but right now it’s easier to do than at any other time of year. Why? Because it’s so hot in Summer that things resist doing, and in the Fall we feel better but in a wrapping-up mode not an initializing one, and Winter fits the new phrase of choice for what we used to call hiding – “hunker down”. But Spring, now, Spring feels like a redemption for winter. It can be the reason we feel that going on is very worthwhile, instead of allowing the malaise of winter to have more than its due. We plan in Spring, we plant in Spring, we start new things in Spring. We find old boats to repair, or build new ones to start a new year on the water. What is spring cleaning, except giving ourselves a fresh start? So, for all these reasons and hundreds more, the bright green of Spring enlivens us.
The birds make it hard to not notice a change in the dynamics of the world in Spring. All those that have been here all year suddenly start singing in prominent places, and loudly. Those that belong up north but have vacationed here for the winter are ready to go back and sing for the people there, and those that have survived the dangers of the thousand-mile trip to the south are now returning in unbelievable numbers, singing all the time. With only a little knowledge about birdsong, it is easy to identify the different species around us. Last week I went outside in the early daylight and heard a common yellowthroat singing “witchity witchity witchity” ( picture courtesy of USGS). I had not heard that song since some time last year, but here it was, loud, like the knock on a wooden door announcing a welcome visitor you haven’t seen for a while. That day I drove down the levee to Myette Pt, about 40 miles away. I stopped four times on that trip and every time I stopped and got out of the truck, there was the common yellowthroat along the edge of the swamp letting the world know that it was alive and with us for another Spring. How can that not be an event of significance? It surely is, I think.
And not just the yellowthroat. The ruby-throated hummingbirds came back last week, looking for the nectar feeders that they always find here. Not many yet, and seemingly all males, but all dressed in the freshest feathers for the females that will come soon. Swamp canaries (aka prothonotary warblers) came from South America day before yesterday, singing “sweet sweet sweet”, an unmistakable voice if we listen in places near to water. Added to that this morning there are Northern parulas (a warbler of the treetops, “zzzzzZZZZZIT”), yellow-throated vireos (“here I am, where are you?”), both either staying here for the Spring family exercises or going on to more northern territories to do the same.
It’s like there is so much to do in Spring that every minute of the day and night is spent by something singing, and each of those somethings is interesting in itself. Frogs use the night to voice a Spring welcome. Some species have already finished egg-laying in the ditches and larger puddles, but the ones that like warmer temps to practice that ritual are now calling from the borrow pit in front of our house. Gray treefrogs, Gulf coast toads, cricket frogs, and soon others, are simple to identify with a minimum of practice and study.
As the phase of Spring reminds me that joy in life is a factor to be appreciated, an event signifying another phase of the cycle often comes unwanted and suddenly. Great loss is always close by, as if to remind us that it is the whole cycle that we must pay attention to, not just one piece of it, or not just what we find pleasant and happy. Last week a friend, a fellow fisherman, was lost from his boat and has not been found. Regrettably, I believe this accident is probably a reminder of the potential for great loss. It is important to acknowledge that even this is a part of the cycle we all belong to. It is accepted, though not sought.
The river is at 9.2 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge today, rising to 9.7 feet by next Wednesday, and it will go a good bit higher after that. The Ohio and Mississippi are both rising strongly all the way up their watersheds. Looking like a longer crawfish season than might have been.
Rise and Shine, Jim