Category Archives: Spring

Spring watch

Suddenly the trees are turning green. It started last week when the branches of the honey locusts that grow along our street began to look faintly green. Today, that faint green has become small leaves, and when the sun came out today for an hour or so, the honey locusts cast fairly good shade. The maples are a few days behind the honey locusts: I’m just beginning to be able to distinguish small leaves on their branches. Where there are trees here in the downtown, the faint green is softening a little of the harshness of the city.

But spring has its unpleasant moments too. The tree pollen has been bad this year, and with all the rain we’ve been having there is lots of mold, so my allergies are acting up and slowing me down.

Then there are the Herring Gulls nesting on the rooftops near us: they stay up late at night, and get up long before daybreak, and squabble and fight with other gulls, and make all manner of weird and unpleasant sounds. Right now, I can hear a gull outside the skylight moaning and crying and chattering, and he has been doing this for an hour now. Now I wish I hadn’t stopped to notice his noises, because I realize that I had effectively blocked him out of my consciousness before, and I have no desire to be aware of him now. Let me concentrate for a moment… there, he’s gone. What gull? I don’t hear any gulls.

Not this year

A couple of Devoted Readers have asked if the Herring Gulls are nesting on our rooftop again this year (some past posts on this topic are here, here, and here).

The answer is that no, the gulls are not nesting on our roof this year. The old nest that had been there for three years, re-used every year, is now completely gone, washed away by some of the heavy rain storms we had in late winter and early spring. There are gulls nesting on nearby rooftops, but not on our roof.

Spring watch

we both had to work today, but at sunset Carol and I took a walk along the waterfront. The air was warm, and a light breeze blew out of the southwest. We were standing out at the end of State Pier when I saw a swallow whiz by.

“Hey, that’s a swallow,” I said, interrupting something Carol was saying. “I think maybe it was a Barn Swallow.” I thought I had seen a yellowish color, but it might have been an effect of the setting sun.

“I told you, I saw lots of swallows flying around the bridge,” she said.

“You didn’t tell me that,” I said. Actually, she probably did tell me, but I wasn’t listening when she did. “You mean the swing span bridge over at Fish Island?”

“Yes,” she said.

We walked back along State Pier towards where the Cuttyhunk Ferry is berthed, when I saw the swallow again. It gave a funny buzzy sort of call. Then I saw it had a brown back and a dark throat. “Hey, that’s a Rough-winged Swallow,” I said. “And there’s another one.”

We watched the swallows as the swooped in among the fishing boats, obviously catching insects. Then they would sit for a moment — on the deck railing of a boat, on a rope tying one fishing boat to another, and, once, clinging to an outlet hole for a bilge pump on the side of a boat. Then they would be off flying again, doing amazing aerobatics as they swooped in among the boats and low to the water.

“Seeing the first swallow of spring is good luck,” I said. Actually I’d never heard of such a superstition before, but I said it anyway because seeing those swallows made me feel good.

Spring watch

My younger sister called me early this evening to say hello.

“I’m outside trying to find the robin that’s been singing,” I said. Abby knows that I’m a birder, so she did not find this statement to be unusual. “I keep hearing him in the mornings, and I want to see if I can see him. And there he is!”

I finally saw him high up in a tall tree’s branches, his red-orange breast lit up with the reddish light of the setting sun.

“Good Lord, I can hear him, too,” said Abby over the phone. “That’s one loud robin.”

“Yeah, he is,” I said. “He’s way up in this tree that’s right next to the Seaman’s Bethel.” Then to be polite, I deliberately walked away from the robin’s tree, and had a nice long chat with Abby. Tomorrow I’ll go back and see if I can see his mate, and their nest — surely there must be a nest. It would be quite something to find a robin’s nest in the middle of the city.

Spring watch

This viral infection has left me with little energy, and I’ve spent a good bit of time lying on the couch, looking out the windows, and listening to what’s going on around our building.

Several days ago, on one of those gray days we’ve been having, I swore I saw a brief flurry of snow. But it could have been a fever dream.

I’ve been watching the Red Maple across the street come into full bloom. By now it is covered with clusters of tiny little red flowers.

Very early one morning, I listened to a Mourning Dove calling from one of the trees across the street. But I don’t think I have heard him calling since. I’ve also heard House Finches calling most mornings; I suspect they favor the trees along the street where I often park my car, on which they often leave their droppings.

The Herring Gulls are nesting again on our rooftop, and on other nearby rooftops. I can hear our Herring Gulls stomping around up on our roof, and having fights, and squawling at each other. The variety of cries they can make is quite wonderful; even though each different cry is more discordant than the next, you have to be impressed by the inventiveness and loudness. I love to complain about the gulls nesting on our roof — that they are loud, combative, abrupt — but at the same time, when you have energy for nothing more than lying on your back and staring up through the skylights, what could be more entertaining than listening to gulls screeching and squabbling?

Spring watch

I spent a good part of the past two days up at Carol’s parents’ house in Westford, Mass. There’s a small wooded wetland right next to their house, and Friday in the late afternoon a chorus of frogs sang very loudly. (Actually, it wouldn’t be accurate to say they sing: the sound is something between a small dog barking and a Mallard duck quacking.) I’m not sure what kind of frog those are, but those were the only frogs I heard last night. And then this evening there were three or four spring peepers adding their voices to the chorus.

There’s a small pond a quarter of a mile away from the house; not a natural pond, but a constructed pond that a developer built in front of some condos. Yesterday Carol and I went for a walk around this pond, and she pointed out for me where sunfish had made nests. There were perhaps half a dozen of these nests, depressions in the sandy bottom near the edge of the pond, about ten inches across and several inches deep. She said that last week she saw a little Bluegill guarding each nest, but we didn’t see any fish there yesterday.

Driving up to Westford from New Bedford yesterday and this morning, I took I-495 most of the way. Perhaps I didn’t notice yesterday, but driving up today I realized that a few willow trees were starting to bloom. All the other trees are still a wintry gray, but a few willows had turned a straw-yellow color.

Spring watch

A few of us went up to a gospel concert in Norton yesterday, and as we were walking back to our cars after the concert, we could hear the spring peepers singing away in the swamp next to the parking lot. We all agreed that the spring peepers haven’t yet started singing down along the coast, presumably because it’s cooler next to the ocean.

Most of the waterfowl have left the harbor, but I did see six pairs of Buffleheads this afternoon. I suspect these are not birds that wintered over here, but rather birds that are migrating north and just happened to stop here for a day; perhaps they got stranded due to the strong north winds that were blowing the past two days.

Standing at the end of State Pier today, I saw two Harbor Seals surface quite close to the pier. They stayed quite close to one another, and at one point they twined their necks together, then slipped under water together. I’ve never seen seals behave in quite this way. I don’t know anything about the mating behavior of Harbor Seals (the only reference work I have on mammals covers land mammals, including order Sirenia but leaving out pinnipeds), but I wonder if what I saw was mating behavior.

Spring watch

When I went out to put garbage in the compost bin this afternoon, it was snowing: big fat fluffy white flakes blowing and swirling around our building.

Yesterday I heard my first Northern Cardinal of the year. And my car had the first bird droppings of the year splattered all over the hood, probably from the House Finch that was sitting up in the tree above the car and singing his heart out.

Spring watch

It was such a shock when the snow hit on Monday. It was heavy, nasty stuff, too: not really snow, but a mix of sleet, snow, and freezing rain, and back-breaking to have to shovel. The next morning, everyone seemed to be driving more aggressively than usual, in part because the roads were badly plowed. Then it got cold and everything froze and it felt like we were back in wintertime.

But today the sun came out and the air warmed up. I managed to take a walk down along the waterfront late in the afternoon, and places where Carol and I could not walk yesterday because of the snow now had no snow at all. My mood lightened appreciably, too: I was more cheerful than I had any right to be.