Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blossoms on the Trees, Cardinals at the Feeder




Red blossoms on the maple trees. White on the ornamental cherry trees, flowering dogwood, on the tall stately well-proportioned tree in my neighbor’s yard. Pink on the magnolias, and on cherry, apple and other spring-blooming trees all over town, outside Town Hall and on the edge of a shopping mall plot stripped for development. Soft colors, pastels, a green fuzz of new buds on the shade trees throughout the neighborhood and all around town.
Spring is good for cities. The entire city of Quincy has its ten to twenty days in the sun when trees are in blossom and the grass greens up below. It never looks that good again until autumn.
Of course, it helps when the sun does shine. We’ve had a shortage of sunny days over the last two weeks, the weather turning back to chill, gray, windy and even raw days, the true default setting for March. Even then, after dark there was excitement in the clouds passing over the first quarter moon and the stars poking through. It’s transition time. You can feel it in the wind, and sometimes even smell it.
The cardinals are back. I don’t know where they’ve wintered, maybe just a few blocks down, but they’ve lately discovered (or rediscovered) our feeder. I watch the male, safely perched in a nearby tangle of branches watch a grackle take over the feeder. The purple-collared grackle plants his feet on the circular metal landing zone, known as the “cardinal ring,” and eats like a bird. Only when the grackle departs, sated (if that’s a word you can use for a bird), do I see the male plant his own efficient birdsfoot-claws on the same ring and eat directly from the feeder, instead of planting himself below as usual and pecking through the shell mulch with the squirrels and the other bottom-feeders. Go, redbird.
Birds, both large and small, take a turn perching on the top of the Japanese weeping cherry tree, which has been in semi-bloom for two weeks since seventy and eighty degree temps of the overly warm second week of March first forced the blooms. Highly unusual behavior for this tree. Usually it waits for the first or second starting bells of April, picks a good spot of reasonably mild weather and begins putting forth. Classic white, pink-centered, satisfyingly full headdress of flowers.
Then they run into a warm day or two, and they’re done. With flowers, the decline from perfection starts immediately; nature at its pedagogical best. Green leaves on their way, and time to start spraying them to keep off the plague of inchworms falling from above.
I’ve actually been worried about their slow, start-and-stop emergence this year. Many of the blossoms seem tightly wound, not fully opened. Will they ever completely relax this year, give themselves to warm air and float down in their turn?
What also happens in this long exposure is some of those birds who find the tree take a notion to sample the blossoms’ suitability for lunch. Peck one, discard it; peck another; etc. A few minutes later, a little snowfall on the ground.
An hour of two of sunlight yesterday afternoon; a hour or two this morning: they look better today. I’m making a secret bet with myself over whether the blossoms last until Easter.