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between-our-steps 04-12-17-doubleFor a few weeks, geese have been alternating between flying north and sliding back south. Along with a few wandering ducks, they've floated on open water. They were driven to find another resting place when ice formed.

In early March, redwinged blackbirds were carried north on warm winds. From last year's swaying cattails, they called their claim that this patch of land would be their nesting ground. Snow swept in, covered the ground, kept insects hidden asleep. A few of these birds came to the feeders in our yard. What did the others eat while they waited for the real spring to come?

Mourning doves joined them. A few robins too. Winter hardy birds--blue jay and junco, cardinal, chicadee and sparrow--made room for them at the feeders. A flock of migrating sparrows stopped by for most of the month.

One day, the temperature would soar, the ground would crawl with cluster flies--a short-lived feast. The temperature plunged. The ground froze. Snow fell again and again. Still, the redwinged blackbird claimed that their piece of land would support a family, eventually.

The ravens were more determined. Not in March, but as soon as April came, I watched them carry bits of grass and twigs to build their nest. Early birds they are. Others waited to be certain spring had come.

We had so many false announcements that spring was here. For syrup producers and the trees they tap, a warm day with flowing sap was cut short by sudden deep dips in temperature. Days of deep freeze put spring into stasis. Birds scrounged for last summers berries, those the turkeys had not already taken.

Flocks of wild turkeys are cleaning up the corn fields, seeking the last food left from fall. Packs of them cross the road, move from spruce shelter to cedar. No mating behaviour that I have seen at least.

Though the redwinged blackbirds seem to think spring is here. Morning brings a chorus of their singing. The first adventurers have been joined by flocks of cousins, with their joyous announcement of dawn and a new season.

I am starting to believe them. Removing forget-me-nots between the rows of garlic, I find worms. I am sure the robins are finding them too.

A pair of harlequin ducks joined the mallards on a neighbour's pond. The first turkey vultures, majestic flyers that they are, rode the winds above our farm. Someone heard a snipe. The sandhill cranes have not yet come, but they will.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.


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