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Roses are red; violets are blue. Today is for lovebirds and cardinals, too. Today is Feb. 14 —Valentine's Day— symbolized by hearts, roses (especially red for passion), cupid, doves, candy in heart-shaped boxes, and love notes. A day when affectionate gestures of gentle hugs, holding hands, and stealing kisses are sometimes observed.

February 14th was recognized in medieval folklore as a day for lovers. Centuries before our time, it was believed by many that birds chose their mates on or near February 14. By that time of the year, springtime was drawing near, and birds were returning to their breeding territories. This date was set aside to celebrate love — for birds, animals, and people, too.

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Ornithomancy, which means reading signs from birds to make predictions, was an ancient practice used by Greeks, Romans, and other cultures. As stories evolved in folklore, people came to believe that the first bird that an unmarried woman saw on Valentine's Day was an omen of the kind of man she would likely marry. Here are some examples:

· A dove signified a happy and loving marriage with a kind-hearted person.

· A blackbird signified a member of the clergy or someone who did spiritual or charitable work.

· A swan predicted a loyal and lifelong partner.

· A goldfinch represented a person of means.

· A sparrow signified someone who lived in the country and worked with the land.

· A gull suggested that you and your partner would travel a lot.

· A bird of prey represented a businessman, politician, or leader.

· A bluebird meant you would find a fun loving, good-natured partner.

· A robin signified someone who worked on the water — perhaps a fisherman or a naval officer.

· A nuthatch suggested a scientist or mathematician — someone who liked logic.

· A kingfisher represented someone who had inherited money or had already become successful.

· A crossbill predicted that your partner would have an argumentative personality.

This information was revealed in several sources, and yet never did I see a cardinal mentioned. I don't understand how this brilliant red bird with his sweet gurgling song could be overlooked on Valentine's Day.

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Just a few days ago when I went out to fill the feeders, I heard the cheery song of a male cardinal. I looked up and saw him singing away in the top of a tall evergreen tree. It was cold outside, and the ground was covered with snow. This is not the time of year for cardinals, or any other songbirds that I know of, to be singing like that in Carroll County.

But there he was, silhouetted against a bright blue sky singing as though it was a day in May.

For a moment I forgot about the cold air biting my face and thought of springtime and all the other songbirds tuning up to perform with the handsome cardinal in the dawn chorus. For a minute, I felt almost warm — until a sudden chilly gust of winter wind ended my reverie. I hurried inside to watch a crowd of birds fluttering in to dine at the freshly filled feeders.

They didn't seem to mind that there were no heart-shaped treats.

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