Nature Blog: Spring on Heaven’s Hillside

This post originally appeared on March 17, 2012 on Nature Writing.

During my nature writing class at Chatham University’s MFA program, I had to keep a weekly nature blog. Each of us picked a place and spent thirty minutes in that place each week, and then wrote a blog post about it. I’ve just bought a house and moved away from this place, so I thought reposting these entries would be a good way to celebrate the time I’ve spent there. I’ll tag each one “natureblog2012.”

Early daffodils.

I knew it would be an early spring when my daffodils started peeking out of their pots in December. Although my tactic of covering them with more mulch worked pretty well to stunt their growth, the daffodils growing wild on Heaven’s Hillside are already blooming, and green is creeping back over the brown.

I’m not going to call the green things poking out of the dead leaf carpet weeds, since I think grass is a much worse idea than “weeds,” for how much water it needs. But that being said, I’ve always liked the word “weed” itself. It starts with “w,” like “wild,” and that’s what weeds are, after all. Wild. I make it a point to kick dandelion seeds as far as I can when I see them. I think they’re beautiful.

At least half a dozen birds that I haven’t heard before have been singing insistently outside my window, sometimes making it hard to concentrate on my work. Both male and female cardinals have been active the past few weeks, though I wonder if the male is the same one I saw over the winter. He looks skinnier, a little brighter, with less black on his wings. It could be a new bird, or perhaps it’s the same one with his summer plumage. The female certainly has been more active, and I see her most days foraging for food, presumably in preparation to lay a clutch of eggs.

An inkling of spring

Yesterday, I saw what I think was a Carolina wren, a little cinnamon-colored bird with a beautiful (and very loud!) song. He hopped along the top of the wood pile in the yard, then ducked into the thicket. Carolina wrens are shy and like dense vegetation and wood piles, and sometimes nest there. I wonder if the mystery birds I saw with white eye stripes a few months ago were actually Carolina wrens?

Being the musically challenged person that I am, it’s difficult to pick out the different bird songs. I can usually distinguish sparrow and robin songs now, and last week I heard a white-throated sparrow. But when all the birds start up at once, it’s hard to pick out individual notes within the cacophony. Since sometimes I can’t even pick out piano versus guitar in regular music without an incredible amount of concentration, I doubt I’ll make much progress in this area.

Clearly alive!

Today, after noticing with bemusement two small tree of heaven saplings coming up by the “wild” daffodils–remnants of when this place used to be a real garden–I was surprised to see the top of my dead tree crowned with green buds. I got as close as the Japanese honeysuckle vines would let me, and it looks like my dead tree may not be quite as dead as I had thought. At least one bird’s nest rests in the upper branches, and another clump of twigs and leaves could be another. I wonder if any of the birds I’ve heard singing will take one of these nests over for the summer?

I’m amazed that although I’ve lived in this house for nearly three years and have “paid attention” to the yard, I didn’t notice something as simple as life in this tree.

Bird List, March 1 – 17, 2012

  • Male and female Northern cardinals
  • Song sparrows
  • American robins
  • White-throated sparrow (heard)
  • Crows (heard)
  • Carolina wren
  • At least half a dozen other bird species (heard, un-identified)

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