Spring is finally here

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 31, 2006

As I sit reading the morning paper, a red bellied woodpecker swoops onto the feeder that hangs from a limb outside our dining room window, scattering the smaller titmice, sparrows and finches. They move to a nearby tree until the big guy moves on.

Doves, too large to light on the feeder, glean the seeds that drop to the ground. They frighten easily and at the first threat scatter like a covey of quail.

The bird seed level in the feeder falls as quickly as the car’s gas gauge, and I have to fill it almost every day. Many of the birds will move on, and the demand for food will drop. When the feeder is empty, the birds disappear. As soon as it is filled, some sign goes out and all of the perches are filled while others wait in the trees. It reminds me of the line at a restaurant after church.

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The pair of wrens has returned for another year. They prepare their nest in a basket that hangs under the overhang by the backdoor. They favor that location, even though it is directly above the spot where Yellow Cat sits watching the world, waiting patiently for breakfast or supper or a mid-day snack. Last year one of the wrens’ hatchlings literally fell into Yellow Cat’s clutches. Even though he is amply fed, he did what cats do. The wrens persevere.

We have not yet been out to the eagles’ nest, which is best seen from a boat, but I am told they have returned. Late on a recent Sunday afternoon I saw an eagle flying over downtown Dadeville.

All it takes is a brief stroll around our half hill to assemble overwhelming evidence that this time spring really is here.

The wild azaleas are in their brief glory. During most of the year, they are spindly plants that you wouldn’t select to fill out the landscape, but the show they put on more than makes up for their plainness after the bloom has passed.

Even as the remnants of last year’s blossoms cling to them, the oak leaf hydrangeas are issuing tender, green leaves. They will present a substantial presence throughout the summer.The daffodils have passed their peak, although the ones my wife naturalized in shaded areas are still blooming.

The dogwoods are flowering and have put out delicate green leaves. Some of the hardwoods are leafing out, and soon I will be blowing catkins off the cars and driveway and decks. For the moment, though, I’m just pleased to see the leaves. I am particularly relieved that the sturdy white oak near the lakefront seems to be coming to life. The earth around the tree was disturbed by some excavation last summer, and we had feared for its future.

When the temperatures rose and the first new growth appeared a few weeks ago, we, like everyone else, felt that ancient urge to get out and stick something in the ground. The television weather man said he thought we’d seen the last freeze of the season, but other things interfered with our gardening. As it turned out, the weather man’s pronouncement was premature, and for once being late was actually good.

Walking down by the lake the other day I saw some violets, and Johnny Jump-ups have pushed up through ground that appears most inhospitable.

The water has risen more rapidly this spring than it has in some years. The water has a brown hue that comes when rain in the watershed pours large volumes of water into the lake. It will be its usual sparkling blue before long.

We’ve bundled up and gone out on the pontoon boat on a few days, and I’ve already seen some hardy souls on personal watercraft, a surer sign of spring than a robin.

We’ve got plenty of digging and planting to do around our place, but at least for a while, I think it’s time just to sit back and appreciate the season.

-Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at williambrown1@charter.net