SPRING GIFTS FROM OTHERS

With moving to Lawrenceville  my top priority right now, I depend on the “kindness of strangers” and friends and colleagues to prove that spring has truly arrived.

PhoebeCharlesRogers4-12-09The Visually Shy, Acoustically Vehement Phoebe of Spring, by Brenda Jones

As reported elsewhere, first proofs were two different reports of having seen skunk cabbage.  These early flowers (though they seem like leaves) spurt in monk-like cowls of burgundy, which slowly turn to red — sometimes even through ice and snow, because exothermic.  I get my skunk-cabbage fix at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, below New Hope.  But there has been no time between packing and phonecalls to head over the Delaware.  This coming Sunday, a skunk-cabbage run is planned, with fellow poet Betty Lies.

The most exciting early evidence came from consummate birder, Sharyn McGee, at the scrumptious Bach performance by the Dryden Ensemble for Early Music.  Sharyn’s keen ear is delighted as much by instruments from or crafted in the manner of the 1600’s as by bird calls in fields and forests.  She reported having heard the first phoebe.  Phoebes are tiny birds with forceful ‘voices’, hard to see, but impossible to miss, acoustically.  In fact, should phoebes nest near you, they will announce their name so frequently and so vociferously that you might wish you could miss some of these announcements by spring’s end.

I’m still wallowing in non-spring bird memories — clouds of snow geese and the elusive snowy owl, white and wonderful, at the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, so oddly near to Atlantic City.

Some robins are hopping desultorily about my stony hilly yard.  I think worms are few and far between, as these landlords do not know about improving soil, let alone tending bird habitat.

Anne Zeman, another consummate birder, walking the towpath near the D&R Canal last week, saw the first ospreys in our region.

O, yes, about a third of the yellow daffodils that spurt alongside an old stone wall on my way to work have opened.  Two-thirds remain tightly closed, seeming to shiver as I drive past.

Purple crocus among the roots of the queenly beech at D&R Greenway Land Trust have opened, and some paled and flattened already.  All the colors, from dark purple through lavender and lilac to near-white are glorious among the beech’s sturdy raised roots.

I can’t believe I’m not out on the trails, chronicling spring.  But this year, logistics-watching has supplanted bird-watching.

Though not bird-caring.

Peepers are somewhat feeble this year, next to my stony promontory.  Others mention their loudness, and Jim Amon, our Director of Stewardship at D&R Greenway, has also heard the click-ticking of the wood frogs.

Jim has brought me Spring’s best proof.  He came in, after a morning in the field on one of our preserves, cupping both hands, as though they held something sacred.  Jim was grinning from ear to ear.

“What are you carrying?,” I asked.

“Eggs,” said he.

“Whose?”

“Wood frogs, then salamanders…  they’d been laid in tire depressions over on the St. Michael’s land.  They’d dry out any day now, would not survive.  Emily and I carried first the wood frog eggs, then the salamanders, over to a vernal pool, where they can grow and thrive.”

Spring is here.