Nature Connection: Growing Season

by Mary Richmond

Spring was slow to warm up this year. To be honest, she’s often slow to shower us with the temperatures we need to sprout our seeds, walk about in bare feet and short sleeves, but this year she’s seemed especially reticent.

This means that the minute we have some nice sunny weather everything bursts into bloom at once. All of a sudden flowers and leaves are popping out all over. It seems like there is so much happening at once, one hardly knows where to look.

Ospreys are everywhere. In established nests the females are already sitting on eggs while the males are busily catching fish and bringing their catches to their mates. They also stop to partake in some themselves, and you may see them on a pole or branch near the nest taking their fill. If you live or walk by a herring run area, you may see a dozen or so ospreys at a time circling above. Take your time to check them out because there may be a bald eagle circling with them.

Bald eagles have become more common here on the Cape over the last 10 years, and several are now nesting here. Eagles will sometimes try to pirate the catches of ospreys, often winning due to size and perseverance. Gulls will also attempt to do this though most are unsuccessful.

Crows are building their nests now and some may already be laying eggs. We have two kinds of crows here, the common American crow and the slightly smaller fish crow. These two birds are often difficult to tell apart unless you see them standing around together. The best way to distinguish them is to hear their calls. The American crow is the one with the common caw-caw-caw, while the fish crow has a much more guttural call.

Ravens have also decided the Cape is an OK place to hang out and nest, and ravens can now be found in just about every town on the Cape. Ravens like to nest in tall trees, but we don’t have a lot of those here so they may use cell towers, water towers, even bridge supports as nesting spots. Ravens have a very distinctive call and are quite a bit larger than our more common crows.

By the time you read this the orioles and hummingbirds may have arrived at your house. A few of each have already been noted here, but the big push will come in the next week or so. Towhees and catbirds will also be arriving and then look out, for the warblers will then come through, giving every birder an excuse to play hooky. After all, the migration is brief and the desire to see these lovely birds is strong.

If your favorite birdwatcher gets up before dawn, grabs their binoculars and heads out the door, you’ll know the migration has begun in our area. Stock up on easy to carry snacks, neck warmers and ice packs for when they get home. Warbler-neck and the pain associated with it are real. It’s due to all that looking up and up and up for hours to catch a glimpse of a beautiful bird.

I was out walking with a friend the other day. All around us were blossoming trees and singing birds. The sun was shining, the air was aromatic and soft, and we remarked on the loveliness of spring and how it is the most hopeful time of year. All that growth that sprouts and hatches all around us each spring reminds us that life does go on in spite of all our thoughts of doom and gloom. We agreed that it is a good thing to have a hopeful time of year, especially these days.

I was recently clearing out some weeds in one of my herb gardens, and the earth was moving beneath my fingers. It was an earthworm, no doubt moving away from my tearing roots from its home. There were other tiny creatures moving about in the dirt, and I found myself imagining their responses to this giant messing around in their little patch of earth. One minute they were just minding their own business and the next some giant hand was moving things around. It must be unsettling if not downright scary. We can’t know what the response of these tiny creatures truly is; we can only guess, but they flee, so they obviously respond. Even if that response is written off as simply instinctive flight it is still interesting to me. What if their response is more than we assume? What if they, like ourselves, have a more complex response to disruption, a fear of harm, even death?

Everywhere I go I see signs of new life, of vigorous growth. Even at the beach and in the dunes, I can see the greening of the sandy landscape. Beach peas and grasses are pushing up through the sand, their leaves creating small but lovely patterns of green against the gray. The beach rose, Rosa rugosa, is leafing out and it won’t be long before the pinks and whites of the heavily scented flowers greet us at every beach and marsh area.

Young animals are out and about. Baby bunnies are everywhere. Leave the dandelions and clover for them to eat. This works in my yard and keeps them away from the hostas and other young plants like echinacea. It’s not foolproof, of course, but worth a try.

Spring is a time to consider growth of all kinds. There is the growth of all plants and animals, of course, but also of our understanding of nature and our place within this grand ecosystem we call earth.

While we nurture the things we want to see flourish, it may also be prudent to pull the weeds of injustice and inequality, of poverty and ignorance as well.