Every year, for as long as any of us can likely remember, we tend to experience a sense of almost giddy gladness at the seeming end of winter. This year is no exception and even though I know what to expect, I am still amazed as winter thaws and spring begins to arrive. What amazes me about the changing seasons, the one sliding into the next, is the regularity and predictability of their progression, regardless of whether we humans are attuned to them or not.
A couple of weeks ago the grackles and red-winged blackbirds returned to my area of south central Pennsylvania, followed by the robins who moved back into our neighborhood a week or so ago. At first the robins were quiet, keeping their melodies to themselves, but now, a few days later, their singing begins before dawn and their chattering will not fade away until well past dusk. The cardinals and song sparrows seem unable to contain themselves any longer and their chorus begins as day breaks and the sun peeks over the horizon. Up until these newcomers’ arrival, the morning serenade began with the perky little Carolina wren’s song, and even though he is outnumbered by other species now, his voice may still be the strongest amongst the throng. It has always been this way and will be, hopefully, for a long time yet to come.
These days it seems like everywhere something calls out to be noticed and each day brings some newness to discover. Today, in our yard, it was the hazelnut, or filbert, catkins. All of a sudden they are green! They have been brown and dried out looking all winter and now they are plumping up and softening and turning green, in preparation for another year of reproduction. It just makes me smile :). The other new sight in the yard was something I have never seen before in all my years of watching bees. Now, I must admit to being only a casual bee-watcher and some of you readers have likely known about this phenomena for a long time but I had never encountered it until yesterday… I was crouching down on my knees, watching two bees take what sustenance they could from the blooming snow crocuses when I noticed, concernedly, what appeared to be orange parasites on their back legs. The blobs looked, for all the world, like orange aphids or ticks, even. Was the bees’ hive infested with yet some new organism that was working to compromise their survival? Well… no. Some quick research revealed that the orange areas were pollen baskets and are only found on the back legs of female bees. When the baskets contain no pollen they are not evident but when they are full, they bulge and take on the color of whatever pollen the bee has found and placed there for safekeeping. At this time of year, a few snow crocuses are what will sustain those bees until more plants begin flowering. The color of those pollen baskets was exactly the same hue as the orange pollen on the flowers themselves. Now I know!
What are you seeing as spring comes creeping in?