Remember the original Jiffy Pop popcorn from the early 1960s? It came in a round aluminum pan that you heated on the stove. As the kernels started to pop, a swirling foil balloon would start to rise and popping noises would fill the air.
Spring is the jiffy pop season of the year for me. Every time I turn around, something is popping out. From trees to flowers to birds to insects, everything is bursting with the energy that only spring can bring.
One of my favorite trees, the redbud, is in full bloom right now. They fill the landscape with beautiful sprays of delicate pink/purplish flowers.
Did you know that they are members of the bean family? (They sure don’t look like beans ... another “add to the list item” for further reading.)
There’s so many reasons to love redbuds. For one, they are native American plants, as in plants that originate here and naturally thrive here. Are you familiar with the phrase, “Buy American?” Add another phrase to your lexicon, “Plant American!” when it comes to gardening. Redbuds are a perfect choice.
They also make an awesome backdrop for photographing birds. Even ordinary birds like starlings and sparrows look extraordinary with gorgeous redbud blooms surrounding them. The heart-shaped leaves only add to their charm.
As for flowers, I always know it’s spring when I see bloodroot in the woods and violets in the grass. There are dozens of other tiny wildflowers (what everyone calls weeds) on the edges of the lawn that I haven’t even identified yet. Native columbine, Solomon seal, creeping phlox and wild geranium are not far behind.
On some of the warmer days we’ve already had, there’s plenty of buzz in the air. Bees, wasps, ants, flies, and the ever-ubiquitous mosquitos are already out and about doing what they do best: becoming a meal for birds and frogs or in the case of mosquitos, making a meal of us.
My new dog Chester has already discovered that he doesn’t like ants and even goes so far as to step over them or avoid them completely. It’s funny when you consider that this gangly large dog is afraid of tiny ants. Bumble bees, on the other hand, are fair game. I see some stings in his future.
Of course, everyone is waiting with bated breath for the 17 year cicadas. They will be here before we know it. I’m wondering now about the numerous small holes I’ve seen in the ground in our side yard. Are they the start of the cicada invasion?
I can’t wait to see what Chester does with them. Who knows, I may not have to feed him regular meals for a while as he munches down on those high protein snacks.
Our little pond made it through the winter in good stead. Three green frogs and an American toad now call it home. The toad has been singing on warm nights along with hundreds, if not thousands, of his counterparts in the wetlands across the road, including spring peepers and wood frogs. The pitcher plants and water irises are just starting to grow, giving our one and only fish, Creamsicle (he’s orange and white just like the ice cream treat) some nice cover to hide under.
Naturally I am saving the best for last and that would be the birds. Though I haven’t seen many spring migrants yet, especially the warblers, others have already made appearances, including bluebirds, tree swallows, brown thrashers, towhees and best of all the red-headed woodpecker.
A pair of brown thrashers are very busy building a nest just over the fence line on my neighbor’s property. I can barely see it in the thicket but hope to catch some family action when the young ones are born. Thrashers are the DJs of the bird world with their many, many song snippet imitations of other birds, which I will thoroughly enjoy while I patiently wait for the debut of their babies.
The bluebirds are already on a roll. Two nests are in progress while one is already complete and holding four very beautiful white eggs. I am almost certain that this is the same couple that has been nesting in the same box for several years. I say this because they are the only ones with white eggs, which is a bit of a rarity, with only 4-5% of bluebirds laying such eggs.
The chickadees have laid claim to three other boxes. One has several tiny speckled eggs to match their diminutive sized parents. Whenever I see chickadee nests, I have to smile. They are masterpieces of construction with several inches of vibrant green moss topped with what seems to be the softest fur they can find.
A pair of Barred owls are making frequent stops in our small patch of woods. It certainly is the right time of year for them to be raising their young. I’m sure they are finding plenty to take home to their babies with all the great hunting around the brush piles we have. I hear their calls to each other nearly every day. Chester goes ballistic when he hears them, making it almost impossible for me to record their conversations, which I would dearly love to do.
At times they are so loud and raucous that they sound like howling monkeys.
Last, but not least, is the red-headed woodpecker (not to be confused with the more common red-bellied woodpecker). Last year he made his first ever appearance at our peanut feeder on May 5. This year he arrived on April 14.
Though not migratory, he certainly disappeared over the winter. I worried that last year’s visit was just a fluke but I am ecstatic to see that it wasn’t.
With him as my talisman, I have great expectations for the weeks to come. Warblers, tanagers, buntings and thrushes will be flitting through the trees everywhere and I will be ready for them. If I’m lucky, maybe even our frequent fox visitor will have kits in tow this year. That would be wonderful.