Friday, February 26, 2010

Bluebirds and Winter's End

One of the pleasures of winter in the South is the grace of spring days that appear ahead of season. Sunday was one of those days of blue sky, soft air and warm sun, the more exquisite for its rarity in an unusually cold February. The natural world here registers the call of the warming sun before the calendar does. The early daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths began pushing through the soil and broke ground a couple of weeks ago. Birds are singing again, announcing their presence as nesting season approaches.

A pair of bluebirds diligently shops for homes. They perch on the roof, peering at the former hole in the gutter (patched) where they nested two seasons ago. They go in and out of the hole high up in the house’s cedar siding where they raised babies last year. I buy them a bluebird box and mount it 6 feet high on a pine tree outside the dining room window. Within four hours, the bluebirds discover it. The male goes in first, while the female perches on the rim of the hole.

The bluebirds are careful house shoppers. They return again and again for inspections. They perch on nearby branches, assessing the neighborhood. They check out the birdbath and land on the feeder, flying away after discovering nothing but sunflower seeds.

Yesterday the bluebirds began defending the box. The male drove away a white-breasted nuthatch pecking on the tree outside the box. The female darted out of the  box to chase another female bluebird that had landed on the outside of the hole.

I haven’t yet seen the birds gathering materials for a nest. It’s the end of February and the cold has not yet receded. But nature is quietly preparing for the burst of life in spring.

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