March, month of change

Blackbirds crowded the feeder outside my study window when I came to my desk a minute or two ago, seven male red-winged blackbirds and one common grackle. There were more redwings and another grackle on the ground below the feeder. Now they’re gone, all of them. They flushed together, as birds do if they spot a Cooper’s or a sharp-shinned hawk, or a cat or some other danger. I don’t know why the blackbirds flushed. I haven’t seen a hawk or a cat or a raccoon or even a squirrel this morning.

Now birds that were probably at the feeder before the blackbirds flew in are coming to the feeder. A red-bellied woodpecker came first, then a male cardinal, two male cardinals, then a house finch and a red-breasted nuthatch. Now there are many little birds on the feeder and the ground below, a black-capped chickadee, a white-breasted nuthatch and a tufted titmouse, dark-eyed juncos, American tree sparrows, house sparrows, a downy woodpecker.

The birds I see now are a mix of birds of different seasons. There are year-round residents, the red-bellied woodpecker, the cardinals, the house sparrows, white-breasted nuthatch and black-capped chickadee. There are winter birds, the red-breasted nuthatch, the juncos and tree sparrows. And there are spring arrivals, the red-winged blackbirds and grackles.

It’s March, a month that, like the birds, is a mix. It’s neither winter nor spring but a day or two or a week of winter weather with freezing temperatures, even ice and snow, then days with the weather like spring, the temperature climbing to 50, 60, even 70 and occasionally 80 degrees.

March is a month of change. Days are getting longer. When I get up in the morning now the sky is getting light. Birds are singing. Tufted titmice call from the trees in our yard. Red-winged blackbirds call from the cattails of the marsh at the edge of our pasture and from the willows along one side of the marsh. I’ve heard a song sparrow singing out by our barn, a killdeer call in the pasture. A friend told me he had heard and seen robins.

I’ve read March described as a loud and stormy month. I have a book in which March is described as “One of the best natured months of the year, drying up the superabundant moisture of winter with its fierce winds.” In another book I have March is described as the month “in which symptoms of growth take place.”

The grass in our yard is turning green and will soon be tall enough to mow. Buds on the maple and oak trees in our yard are swelling. Soon the leaves on those trees will be unfurling. I know a wetland where the green leaves and purple, brown and green horn-shaped blossoms of skunk cabbage are out. Marsh marigold or cowslip is in bloom. The tiny blossoms of harbinger-of-spring or pepper-and-salt are out in the woods. The leaves of may-apple and many violets, jack-in-the-pulpit and many other flowers are up.

Soon there will be warblers, some, yellow warbler, common yellowthroat, redstart and yellow-breasted chat occupying territories, pairing, mating, building nests, others, Blackburnian, black-throated blue and black-throated green and many more winging their way through, going to nesting grounds farther north. Robins and bluebirds and mourning doves will have nests with eggs or nestlings. By the end of March tree swallows and barn swallows, bank and rough-winged swallows, wood thrushes and veerys.

You don’t like today’s weather, wait a day or two or three and it will change. You want more wildflowers, leaves on the trees, wait a day or two or three and there will be more. You want more birds, wait a day or two or three and there will be more birds. This is March, the month of change.

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