A wonderful way to begin the spring

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What a wonderful way to begin the spring. Deciding to take an early morning ride on a beautifully sunny day, the official first day of spring, I get a thrill, not just from the exhilaration that physical exercise brings, but from all of the nature around me. On this particular day, as if to coincide with the arrival of spring, I am greeted by some sights which always return this time of year, and some I have not seen for many years. Of course, as is indicative of every spring, the chirping robins align the fields. I enjoy hearing their hustling and bustling activity seemingly at it's height.

Many red-winged blackbirds also lined the fields. The male's song, another typical sound of spring, is of an unmistakably distinctive gurgling sort. I love to see them take to the air, spread their wings and soar, they seem proud and majestic, and thus I am granted my chance to see the red above the wings, in its sudden splendor.

Later, as I was approaching a field near the edge of the woods, I see a happy little bluebird and his mate fluttering along, finally perching upon the telephone wires by the road. The eastern bluebird is visually appealing with a blue back, and rusty orange breast with white below. His pleasant finch like chirping pronounced his arrival. It would sound poetic to say it was the first bluebird I had seen this year, but indeed I had already seen one several weeks before.

Approaching another field along Crestview Drive, American Kestrel, Photo: Dave Menke, USFWS I spotted a bird which at first appeared to be perched, but yet with it's wings fully extended. At first I thought it was a swallow or a chimney swift, but upon further examination believed it to be some kind of falcon. I've heard of Peregrine Falcons, but had never seen one, later I looked up in my bird guide and determined that this bird was actually an American Kestrel (formerly called "Sparrow Hawk"). It had sharply pointed wings, a rusty colored back with gray wings. When he perched the wings completely covered his back and all you could see was a whitish gray. But again he took to flight and I could definitely see the distinctive contrast between the reddish brown back and the bluish gray wings.

Now how could this bird be perfectly still high in the air, with no movement forward, lateral, backward or vertically, was my first thought. Even a hummingbird displays a hint to his secret, his wings are a blur indicating their rapid movement, but this bird was surely not moving, like he was nailed in place, or hung by a wire, he maintained this position for what seemed an eternity. It was a sight I can't say that I've ever encountered until now. Suddenly, to betray his secret, he swooped down as if he had fallen, and broke off the rapid dive and swung back around, up, and to his original position high in the air. Now I was beginning to realize what he must be doing. He must have been hovering in one spot in the air, searching for prey. Apparently the wind flowing along his streamlined wings allow him to hover so.

Finally, as if that wasn't enough, I was ridding swiftly down a grade and noticed I was in an effective race. A wild turkey was scurrying along the woods beside me, apparently confused about which way to run. He was keeping pace and seemed startled as to how I could be going so fast, and then eventually, decided to kick his heels and rear himself around in the other direction. Apparently he had never encountered a bicycle rider before. Of course I stopped, wanting to see him a while longer, and noticed that there was another turkey scurrying away as well. This one took to flight, his wings large and beautiful, and swooped over a small pond and beyond, eventually landing not too far, but, I suppose, out of harms way. I lost track of the first fellow, I suppose he won the race, but I won the day, having one of the nicest first days of spring I can think of.

After my trip, I heard another sign if spring, several utterances from my daughter concerning the cut Daffodils in our kitchen: "I never smelled that wonderful smell for a whole year. (sighs). It's so wonderful . (big sigh)."

Douglas A. Bauman
March 20, 2004