Turning toward Spring

Contrary to forecast, skies over town remained mostly clear through the day. There was a bit of an east wind to make things feel a little cooler, but even so, temperatures warmed up to the low 40s. I was able to find a spot on the south side of a Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) in the backyard – the trees and position on the hill mostly broke up the wind, so I found it to be quite pleasant sitting there enjoying the warmth of the sun and listening to the animal activities around me.

Most active were the Pine Siskins – they were chattering from the trees to my east and southeast. They’re fairly aggressive and noisy at most times, but they seem to be spreading out a bit – perhaps they’re starting to separate into breeding pairs. The juncos were also chittering amongst themselves, with an occasional trilled abbreviated song thrown in. They were also mostly to my east and southeast, though lower down in the trees. I saw them flying over the house to south of me as well. Chestnut-backed Chickadees were regular, but less frequently calling, I’m not sure if they were just passing back and forth, actively feeding, or something else. A couple of times down the hill a little further off to the east, I heard a Winter Wren singing. Varied Thrushes gave a few short-quiet buzzing-calls, though mostly they were quiet (I did see one fly up to an upper tree branch when I started walking back to the house).

There were ravens calling in the further distance, and also at least one raven (possibly more) flying over the area repeatedly (though not in any pattern I noticed) making a call I find reminiscent of a shorebird. It’s kind of a rapid “tu-tu-tu-tu” or something like that. I’ve heard them make it in the past, though right now I can’t remember if it was only in the spring time or not. I did see a second raven carrying what appeared to be nesting material yesterday – so I’m curious if the call is something related to courtship/breeding.

When I first sat down at the tree I didn’t notice any sapsucker wells. This seemed odd, since the warmth of this location seemed like a good prospect to induce sap flow. It did not take much specific looking to find several wells tapped in the tree – most of them closer to the base, almost even into where the duff was covering the start of the roots. Most of the wells looked pretty dry, but I did notice more than one with small beads of sap starting to form.

At one point during my sit, I heard a squirrel alarm from the trees ESE of me, then some scurrying in the brush and leaves a short distance directly to my east. I looked over and startled a squirrel that had come down from the trees and started toward me along the ground. It jumped back to the nearest tree, climbed up to get a better look at me and then proceeded to take a detour, jumping from branch to branch and crawling along above my head. A short time a later, a second squirrel did the same thing, though this one took some time to check me out further from the trunk directly above my head. It came towards me head-first, then backed up, shifted a little bit to the side, seemingly trying to figure out who/what I was. After a few moments, it must have decided I was no longer interesting, as it returned to its former quest of chasing the first squirrel (or so it seemed to me). A few minutes later they both came running back toward the direction they had come from, with one in close pursuit of the other.

A substantial bit of melting occurred with ice on the ground through the day, but as soon as the sun was down near the horizon, it started to freeze up and become quite slippery. I actually found it kind of fun to slide down/along icy patches, but it can be treacherous.

Walking down along the harbor about 45 minutes after sunset, I enjoyed the thumbnail crescent of the moon with a bright Jupiter (I think) nearby. The lingering colors of the sunset were reflected in the harbor’s calm waters along with the harbor lights now starting to turn on. I noticed the silhouette of a Great Blue Heron standing at the water’s edge – as we approached, it’s head smoothly turned so it could keep an eye on us; suddenly twisting rapidly to look with the other eye when we had walked past it. I stopped briefly to look at it and see if it would fly off, but apparently that was not enough of a break from accepted human behavior to make it decide to move locations.

2 thoughts on “Turning toward Spring”

  1. I feel like I am there with you and the birds, Matt.

    Sounds like your birds are pretty active up there. Things are livening up down here in Oregon, too.

    When you are paying close attention, as it sounds like you are, there are so many exciting things to experience as the seasons bleed together. I have been deliberately paying more attention to the birds and other natural happenings around me and I am amazed at how much there is to notice and marvel at.

  2. Thanks Ivan – the bird activity has definitely been increasing here in the past week or two. Every day I go out I’m hearing juncos and song sparrows singing now.

    One of the great things about maintaining this site over the years has been the motivation it has provided me to pay more attention – you’re right, there is a lot out there to see, and it’s funny how easy it is for things to slip by unnoticed for years, then suddenly seem so obvious.

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