April Snowflakes

One way to cope with April snowflakes is poetry. So here’s a little poem I wrote a few years ago for “Poetry Day” in our homeschool.

Winter’s Last Kiss

Winter came back for a kiss good-bye,
Tossing snowflakes in the April sky.
‘Oh my, oh my!’ little children cry!
‘No, not again,’ frowning grown-ups sigh.

But the joyful birds – steadfast to sing,
Tweet, chirp and trill – such sweet songs they bring.
Robin, finch, and blackbird with red wing,
Add voice to the glad chorus of spring.

Let’s send off showers of April snow,
Thankful for a cup of hot cocoa.
Farewell, winter! Far away you go!
Green grass, green leaves – come and grow, grow, grow!

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Swans on a Lonely Lake

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A quartet of swans stopped by our little lake this morning. They came with no pointe shoes and no concert suite composed by Tchaikovsky. But they did move across the watery stage nearly as graceful as ballerinas.

At first sight of them, I dashed down to the dock with my camera in hopes of capturing a few pictures of my favorite water fowl. When I made it down to the water’s edge, I could not see them and feared I had somehow frightened them away. Feeling confused, I headed back up the hill towards the house. But then part of the way back, I turned and caught of glimpse of them gliding away from the reeds and cattails and toward the middle of the lake.

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By the time I reached the lake, the swans were in clear view and coming toward me. I snapped a few pictures and then sat down at the end of the dock. The swans kept coming closer, trumpeting to each other.

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I kept clicking the shutter release button, and each bird kept posing as if to say, “Why yes, of course you should photograph me. Don’t I look stunning on this beautiful May morning?”

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“The sky,” he wrote on his slate, “is my living room. The woods are my parlor. The lonely lake is my bath. I can’t remain behind a fence all my life…”

― Louis the swan writing to the Head Man in charge of the birds at the Philadelphia Zoo in E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan

 

Meet Peep

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Sometimes as birdwatchers, we find that the tables turn and we are actually being watched by the birds instead!

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Peep is a male American goldfinch who especially likes people watching.

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He shows up at our windows, sometimes knocking on the glass with his beak. Then he just stares at us, making me feel guilty about not keeping the windows cleaner.

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After a minute, he moves on to a different window and stares some more. If he weren’t so cute and yellow, he might come across as creepy!

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Eventually, Peep gets hungry and joins his darling little wife at the feeder. They make such a cute couple all dressed in bright yellow feathers.

Oh, and if you want to share the love of birdwatching with a small person or two in your life, check out this great list of 10 picture books about birds over at House Full of Bookworms. I found many of these are available at our library and will be perfect for summer reading.

Happy reading, happy summer and happy birdwatching!

 

 

 

Backyard Birdwatching

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” -Matthew 6:26

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female grosbeak

 

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downy woodpecker

One of our family’s favorite hobbies is birdwatching. And since we have a variety of birds that visit our backyard, we hang several feeders on our deck. These feeders are easy for us to see from the windows in our dining area, and it’s delightful to watch the birds eat while we sit together as a family. We usually keep our binoculars and a bird identification book right on the windowsill.

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pileated woodpecker

Whether they are woodpeckers, orioles, hummingbirds, grosbeaks, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, or something else, they all seem to appreciate the food. As we watch them eat, it is entertaining to imagine what each bird might be saying or thinking about his meal, his feathers or that day’s weather.

This rose breasted grosbeak looked rather dapper in his red tie. He ate first while his beautiful wife perched nearby.

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male rose breasted grosbeak

Isn’t she lovely?

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female rose breasted grosbeak

Certainly the way to any bird’s heart is through its stomach, and nearly all of our bird friends love this particular suet feeder.

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suet feeder – raccoons keep out!

 

We usually don’t see robins eat from our feeders — they find plenty to eat chasing worms in the grass. But one day I caught a brave robin trying to eat the suet. He kept flapping his wings madly — pretending to be a hummingbird, I think — as he attempted to hover near the feeder and stick his beak into the suet to steal a bite. He’d often watched the woodpeckers and red-winged blackbirds do it and was feeling left out, I suppose. It wasn’t easy, but he did manage to get a few bites and then afterward he perched on the deck long enough for me to capture his picture.

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American robin

 

Do you see the bit of food still on his beak? He really needed a napkin.

Coming up next is a story about people watching — and it might not be what you think!

Something Glorious

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A mostly out-of-tune orchestra of trumpets and horns. That’s the strange music you hear long before you see anything at Swan Park.

Squeezing patiently through the crowd of spectators, many heavily armed with digital SLR cameras and zoom lenses, you eventually get a glimpse of glory.

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Trumpeter swans! Hundreds, sometimes even a thousand, wintering trumpeter swans gather on this rare spot of open water on the Mississippi River when the marshes and ponds in Minnesota are frozen. While the river does freeze over, this particular spot in Monticello rarely freezes because of the power plant upstream.

Joining the swans are hundreds of mallard ducks and Canadian geese, too.

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A riverside resident and swan-lover, Jim Lawrence broadcasts corn to feed the swans at 10:30 every morning between mid-November and March, and so the swans know him well. No one else gets this close to the wild birds.

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Jim’s late wife, Sheila Lawrence, was known as the Swan Lady. She fed and studied the swans for 25 years, helping document the restoration of these birds. The swans now number close to 5,000 in Minnesota, but these natives were absent from the state between the 1880s and 1960s. The Three Rivers Park District and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources were instrumental in reintroducing them to the state in the mid 1980s when 150 trumpeter swan eggs were brought in from Alaska.

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Knowing that history, it’s a miraculous, glorious sight to see so many swans. And yes, it’s cold just standing and watching.

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But these majestic birds fascinate and entertain you as they interact with each other and the sometimes bully the other waterfowl.

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The most amazing sight is seeing them come in for a water landing.

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Their approach seems slow as they glide in on wings spanning 7 feet. Their big webbed feet seem like a strange hybrid of landing gear, water-skis and black rubber boots.

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For details about visiting the swans on the Mississippi this winter, click here. And for more about the Swan Lady, check out this video from the Minnesota DNR.

Goldfinches Galore

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This spring we have been blessed with goldfinches galore.

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Earlier today my oldest daughter counted 15 goldfinches on the feeders and on the patio below. They were more rampant than dandelions.

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Of course, watching these cheerful little yellow birds come and go really brightens our day.

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As I mentioned a few days ago, tulips also bring us joy. If you walked by our house, our tiny patch of tulips probably wouldn’t catch your eye. We only have a few. But they pose so nicely when I photograph them.

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“Let all things their Creator bless, and worship Him in humbleness. O praise Him! Alleluia!” -Saint Francis of Assisi