Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: In Search of Spring

Red-winged Blackbird

Although I do love winter birding by this time of year I am looking ahead to Spring as my cold fingers and frostbitten toes have me yearning for butterflies, warblers and wildflowers.

Despite our made-up, manmade calendar and the weatherman telling us spring is still weeks away I thought I would go see for myself what Nature had to say about when spring might arrive.

I hoped that somewhere between a 60 degree winter day and our recent 2 degree mornings spring would be out there waiting for me.  I hoped to find it somewhere between the Juncos of winter and the early arriving Red-winged Blackbirds raucously assembling in the marshes of the Meadowlands.

Song Sparrow

I heard spring in the melody of a Song Sparrow that was singing atop my dogwood over the weekend and now is sounding their harmony throughout the Meadows edges. Just as I found near the end of winter in the White-throated Sparrows who are now announcing their journey north will not be far off. 

I feel spring in our Bald Eagles that are already on their nests nurturing future generations and in the flocks of gathering Mergansers and Bufflehead that are staging themselves for a long northward journey. I also found spring with the Robins plucking the last crabapples and Holly Berries from the tired winter branches and the Great Horned Owls now nesting despite the coming snow and long cold nights.

I found spring in the willows  and Serviceberry whose buds are now beginning to swell with the wonders of the renewed season; the Cardinals song that can now be heard echoing spring’s arrival; and the Goldfinch that are beginning to show slight flashes of their  brilliant yellow  plumage  that will  announce to all the season has arrived.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied woodpeckers are now competing boisterously for nesting cavities and now too the Grackles fill the air with their electrical sound in a sure symbol of the coming of spring. The Mourning Doves convey their touching sad plea and the Downy Woodpeckers drum wherever they can be heard, letting everyone know that they will be present and accounted for this spring

 The signs were all there. Spring could now be felt and heard. The days are longer; the cold slowly, ever so hesitantly releases its icy grip as spring fights to reach out to us.

Nature is the one constant. It has always been there waiting for us to find it. Just as spring will bring the Hummingbirds and Orioles, it will also bring us what we need to revitalize our spirits and renew our souls. Get outside and find it for yourselves. There is nothing else like it.

The Long and Short of It

Great Black-backed Gull and Ring-billed Gull

Thanks to Joe Koscielny for these fantastic photos taken during last Tuesday’s Bergen Audubon Mill Creek Marsh walk! Above is the Great Black-backed Gull, our largest Gull at 30” long with a Ring-billed Gull, at 17.5.”

Green-winged Teal

Canada Geese and Common Mergansers

Northern Cardinal and Mourning Doves