The Birds

The Birds

Man gardening among spring daffodils and forsythia.

I was staring out the kitchen window in a semi-funk, watching the activity at the bird feeders when Penny gently reminded me that I had not yet written my “From the Gardener” article. Seeing as this is probably the sixth day in a row that I’ve responded, “OK, I’ll get it done today,” and then went on to do more important things like shoveling snow from one spot of the driveway to another so I could watch it melt, I decided to sit down and write.

Before I grabbed a pen and pad, I lingered before the window and wondered why I took such pleasure watching the birds and would they be a legitimate subject for a gardening column?

Many gardeners and commercial growers regard birds as pests. They resent the damage to the fruit buds and the stolen berries and seedlings. Ever watch crows pull up a row of corn? Other gardeners, however, regard the birds as allies because they destroy insect pests and help maintain a natural balance. I am of this school of thought, yet the birds fulfill a much deeper need within me. It is especially at this time of year when the garden, as well as my spirit, are covered with snow and ice that watching birds provides relief. That contact with the wild, living creatures with whom we share this earth is dear to me. If it wasn’t for the activity of the birds (and squirrels), winter would be empty. And colder.

So you see, a garden is not just a collection of plants, but a multitude of living creatures of which birds are most cherished. I know this to be true every time I pause in awe at the hummingbird’s flight. I know this to be true when I stand, spade in hand, drinking the sweet, sweet song of a rose-breasted grosbeak…..every time a hawk screeches from above…..every time the migrating sparrows arrive…..every time a blue jay raids the robin’s nest…..but especially that time when it is no longer the daylight which awakens me from my sleep, but the robin’s song. Oh, yes, that first song of the season….. .. It’s Spring! It’s Spring!..

When winter goes into spring, this is the time I most enjoy our feathered friends. They are the heralds of the glorious rebirth about to occur. When the robin sings, it is time to harvest the first daylily sprouts When the mourning doves return, it is time for the first chive omelet. When I spot the first song sparrow, I go right to the asparagus patch, and sure enough, there’s those first few shoots pushing through. Those first asparagus beetles are there, too! I bet that sparrow looks forward to eatin’ those beetles as much as I look forward to eatin’ that asparagus!

The white crowned and white throated sparrows come shortly afterwards. Then it is time to plant the broccoli and cabbage and other cool weather crops. When I see the phoebe for the first time, the crocus will bloom that very day. It’s uncanny! Uncanny, and reliable as a calendar.

Here’s hoping the birds bring a warm, wonderful spring to your garden.

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