Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The quiet yard

When I first walked outside this morning, I sensed almost immediately that there was something different about my yard. But as I stood there in my typical morning fog, I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I picked up my newspaper and went back inside and it wasn't until a few hours later that I actually figured it out.

I was sitting in my backyard resting from my gardening labors, and, as I usually do in these instances, I was watching my backyard birdfeeders, when suddenly it hit me. The goldfinches were gone! There was not a single goldfinch at the feeders for the first time since December. There were no goldfinches in the trees around the yard, trilling their spring song as they had been recently. The yard suddenly seemed very, very quiet.

They were still here yesterday. I saw them at the feeders throughout the day, even in the rain. I understand now that they were filling up for the journey ahead of them. Sometime during the night, they packed their bags and left.

I shouldn't have been surprised, I suppose. As I said, the birds have been singing their spring song for a while now, which is an indication that they were practicing for the big show ahead when they will have to defend a territory and attract a mate. Even more telling, the green birds of winter had been turning into the golden birds of summer almost before my eyes. Yes, something was definitely up with these goldfinches, but I hadn't really given it much thought. My mind was on other things.

As I was sitting there contemplating the change in the yard, a flock of about thirty Cedar Waxwings landed in the sycamore tree above my head, as if to say, "Never mind! We're still here." And indeed they are and will be for a while longer. The waxwings are almost always the very last of my winter birds to leave.

Yes, the waxwings are still here. The cardinals and mockingbirds, doves and chickadees are still here, and so are the woodpeckers, titmice, and, of course, the bluebirds. My yard is hardly devoid of avian life. But today, it almost seems as though it is.

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