.......and Reflections

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Tipping Point

February 12, 2013 will probably be most remembered as "fat Tuesday". Otherwise it won't come up as any significant day in 2013 history but it is still significant. It isn't of meteorological interest nor seasonally noteworthy. Or is it?

I have already blogged about signs that spring will soon be upon us, at least here in Northeast Ohio. This Tuesday morning I observed a pair of Hooded Mergansers on a Mosquito Creek Wildlife area pond with a patch of open water. Those two are at least thinking about a family if not engaged in courtship.

There were 3 Male Common Goldeneye in a little open water on Mosquito Lake. They were swimming together and all three were bobbing their heads and ending with a gesture with bill skyward and the back of their heads almost touching their backs. This is a courting tactic that bonds them with a female. They weren't doing it to impress their buddies or to show off at all. At least not yet. You see, they just can't help themselves. It's SPRING. Their internal guidance system to attract the girls is in full throttle. They are doing this because they have to.......ready and perfected for some lovely would-be mate just up some north woods stream.

The morning started out with a serendipitous look at a Mink on ice skirting a stream that feeds into Mosquito Lake. This is a mammal that by 1860 was nearly hunted into oblivion for their furs, but have made a remarkable comeback because of conservation, protection and improving environmental conditions. They are a ferocious predator. I have seen them carrying a drake Mallard killed for its hungry family. The Mink is likely on the prowl for an early spring meal.

In the marsh I found a Virginia Opossum munching on some morsel of food it scavenged from the marsh. These Marsupials are primarily nocturnal but they are searching for much needed food after slim pickings on cold and snowy winter landscapes.

These things are signs of spring but do not necessarily define the beginning of spring. But one thing does announce that spring is official and joyfully true.

Winter is a silent season. There are sounds in winter. Canada Geese may be the only species more vocal than humans, no matter the season. There are natural sounds even in the deepest hours of winter. But on some day in early February songbirds begin to sing. It is like someone turned on a faucet. In fact the handle on the faucet is the lengthening daylight. And February 12, 2013 was the day the singing began and therefor announcing the first day of spring. There will be song in every habitat until the eve of next winter. and from this point it will build to tremendous and glorious crescendo in May and June.

I was serenaded by a Purple Finch at Mosquito Lake with a continuing loud song that was sung to absolute perfection. I could not find a Purple Finch for more than two months. They were probably there but I never could find them. Ironically, I enjoyed every note of the repeated song....but I could never find the bird. I'll take a song any day and the proclamation of spring.

It seemed everybody was joining the celebration. Tufted Titmice, Cardinals, even Yellow-rumped Warblers, could be heard uttering call notes, not a song, but that won't be too far down the trail. The middle of nowhere is somewhere and that somewhere is on its course for another year of beautiful places and wonderful sights and sounds.

You won't see February 12, 2013 as the first day of anything but take my word for it, Spring is officially here. In fact, don't take my word for it. Get out and find a little piece of nowhere and listen. No matter how cold or snowy it gets, the days from this point on will usher in song and spring!

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