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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 11 Outdoors: Between Woods and Orchard

Wednesday, March 14, 9:10-10:00 a.m.

The sun rises considerably farther to the north this time of year. As it clears the canopy of the Eastern Woods, the east-facing edge of Claudia’s Woods is drenched in light, while to the north, bordering the youngest block of cherries and the old hayfield, popples on the south bank of the stream show sharp contrast on their trunks, one side sunlit, the other shaded.

Edges are productive places to spot birds, and songbirds began returning this past Sunday. The east-facing edge of Claudia’s Woods is open to cherry orchard, orchard blocks bounded on the opposite side by the Eastern Woods. Here at the edge, woodland, orchard, meadow, two-track and utility lines provide a variety of bird habitat. On Tuesday morning two bluebirds flitted about in this vicinity, and young trees at the woods-edge were full of robins. This morning was quieter. Birds were audible and nearby but not right at hand.

Many pine trees suffered heavy damage after the recent storm, boughs breaking under wet snow. Large branches from a young red pine lay at the edge of the old farm lane, needles (in bundles of two) soft green still and fragrant with sap. The cones are attached at the ends of branches, tight to the tips.

Four Canada geese fly high overhead, and one honks at regular intervals. They are winging north. Besides this robust quartet, an occasional smaller bird crosses the open space of the meadow or orchard. A single robin flying across the otherwise empty immensity of blue sky looks tiny and brave.

A mourning dove alights on the power line along the lane, constantly adjusting its weight for precarious balance. With its small delicate head, long tapering tail, and gracefully swollen body, its shape is reminiscent of an old carved fertility goddess. Its colors, too, recall the Madonna, all soft cream and taupe.

The sun warms as it mounts. A soft southern breeze feels semitropical. The wooded hill blocks traffic noise from M-22, but a single car way over east on Jelinek Road delivers a long drawn-out dull roar long before it appears in binocular sight between stacked layers of tilled field strips. Here at the edge of the woods a few patches of snow remain. The last of the season? Maybe, maybe not. Où sont les neiges d’antan?

Back home in the front yard, an oriole flashes in the high branches of the silver maple.


Dawn said...


Laurie said...

You mention the two birds that symbolize my parents. The robin is my dad -- he loved robins, did a wonderful evening-robin-song impression, and used to call us all when he saw his first robin every spring. The mourning dove is my mom. I don't recall that she loved them any more than any other bird when she was alive, but the morning she died my dad noted one grieving outside her bedroom window. And a mourning dove nested under the awning of their house in the ensuing years: I remember her sweet, watchful eye. When I see these birds I feel glad - and say, "Hi Mom." "Hi Dad." Thank you for these mentions.

P. J. Grath said...

Laurie, your comment means even more since I knew your parents. How sweet to think of them in connection with these birds! I always think of my son when I see mourning doves, but not for any sad reason: when he was a toddler in Traverse City, we had lots of mourning doves in our neighborhood, and he heard the word as "morning," and in fact always referred to them as "good morning doves," which I found unbearably sweet.