Back in the late nineties, we started to note that there were certain pairs of certain species that returned each year. Firstly, we noted that two of the Canada geese I had raised and released would return and raise a family, allowing us an intimate look at their life history. The adults were cautious but would allow the young to move amongst us as we watched them develope. And while the geese were building the nest, a pair of mallards would return and feed in close proximity to the geese, while all other geese and mallards were driven away. Then the woodfrogs would start their calls, then the peepers, then the chorus frogs and so on.
By keeping a calendar record of each ‘first’ sighting of the year, we saw a pattern of harbingers. Seemed the geese didn’t mind the snow and ice, and during the first week to 10 days of April, they would show up and start to build their nest, often with ice and snow still on the ground. Soon after the geese were setting up, the mallards would come, and start walking into the woods, snow and all, seeking out a nesting site. By the last week in April, the fly catching birds such as tree swallows and phoebes would arrive, usually as the snow was in patches on the ground. Chipmunks, robins, woodcock, snipe, and all manner of sparrows would be seen scurrying around the pond.
But this year, we don’t see our spring arrivals around the pond…matter of fact, we can’t even see the pond. There is over 3 feet of snow still on the surface and surrounding fields. While the geese and mallards are able to survive the cold and lack of easily available foods, I worry about our insect eaters. We have seen the results of cold springs before with dead bluebirds and swallows in their nest, starving to death as they tried to hatch out their eggs.
But I still watch the sky for signs of spring…the first turkey vulture (arrived in Hinckley, Ohio right on time.) Did the swallows make it to Capistrano? Well, truth be told, despite the fact the town still puts on festivals, there have not been swallows there for years. Although apparently, when the new pope was announced, a single pair showed up at the mission. Will my geese arrive? Unfortunately, I believe that most, if not all, of the family were shot by hunters on a nearbly lake.
But hope springs eternal and maybe I will be wrong…there will be geese and there will be a spring.