May 2, 2008


Spring has sprung,
The grass has riz,
I wonder where the birdies is.

The little birds is on the wing,
Ain’t that absurd,
The little wing is on the bird!

- childhood poem

There is so much springtime activity going on, particularly with the birds, that I am completely agog. I am having a very hard time keeping up with all of the excitement. The biggest news in the province of New Brunswick at the moment is the fact that the Saint John River is reaching flood stage in our capital city, Fredericton, and down river from there in smaller farming communities. We had a lot of snow this past winter and the spring runoff has driven the river to near record flood levels, creating the worst flooding since 1973.

Hundreds of homes have been evacuated and hundreds more have at least flooded basements. Over forty streets in the capital are closed because they are under water. At the moment probably even the farmers are having a hard time seeing the bright side of things. There is at least one, though. Along the river there is land that floods almost every year that is used as farm land. Referred to locally as the ‘interval’, this land is preferred for growing crops because the annual flooding enriches the soil.

At the moment for me a big preoccupation is the birds. For the last few days my feeders have been overrun by two different large flocks of birds, one group getting ready to leave here, and the other group just arriving from down south. The former, Common Redpolls, and the latter, Chipping Sparrows are eating as much seed as I will put out. They are emptying a feeder in a day that would normally be filled once a week. The Common Redpolls are fattening up for their migration and the Chipping Sparrows are starved from theirs.

The usual collection of Black-capped Chickadees, Purple Finches, American Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers and Blue Jays are coming to visit every day. The male Purple Finches and American Goldfinches have just about finished moulting and are in their bright springtime plumage. There are Common Grackles about and this morning I saw Canada Geese on the wing. So far, as near as I can tell, there is no activity at the Bald Eagle’s nest although I did see a Bald Eagle cruising the marsh the other day. The warblers are beginning to arrive and soon springtime birding will be in its high season.

A real treat for me each year is the first sighting of the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). One came to visit my backyard the other day. This is a rather large member of the woodpecker family with very distinctive markings. John Burroughs referred to this bird as the ‘high hole’, which I presume has to do with where they make their nest. Usually I spot the flickers in Victoria Park which is next door to our house and features a bandshell, flower gardens, fountain, the city's cenotaph and some very nice trees.

This is also high season for what I refer to as the ‘small flower bulbs’. Today’s flower photograph is of Glory Of The Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) which is one of the early blooming spring bulbs. Daffodils and tulips are also beginning to bloom and soon there will be a riot of colour everywhere. So spring will soon be in full swing. The woodland flowers will begin to bloom in the next few weeks. I can hardly stand the excitement!

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