Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Robins Return to the Hood

Light on Crows
Can It Be?
The First Robin!
Shows of the Old Apple Tree
Robin in a Tangle of Branches
Ice Thin as Eggshells
Bobo Hunting the Hummocks
No Snow
Except a Lingering Driveway Glacier
Light Shines on Elmira Pond
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Just look at the murder of crows as they wing across the southern pasture in full sunlight. Black feathers reflect white light. A sign of spring?

Sunlight is a break in the weather, nonetheless. A break from rain, fog and cloud cover. A time for the peat moss to photosynthesize light, for clover to expand and blades of grass to grow. It might be a false spring -- it is yet February -- but the ground is ready to absorb the sun. Changes are quickly happening like a lab project gone wild.

The pond has a new look every morning. I try to gauge how much ice melted, if any early migrators might take advantage of a few open pools. Reeds and grass poke out or bend over as if the pond is waking up and has bed-head.

When I see the first red-breasted robin, then I know we are changing seasons. The dogs miss the first flutters. Disappointing because they are bird dogs. My camera missed the first arrival, too. So Todd refused to believe I saw robins.

Today I'm armed with camera and I stand still with the dogs. The robins gray feathers blend in with the bare landscape, but I watch as Bobo's ears perk. She sees the movement. Two robins hop across new peat, seeking old seeds from last season. They graze, hop and keep a keen eye to us. Bobo dashes after her first robins.

It's official. Robins have returned to the hood.

Chattering, both birds find refuge in the naked apple tree. It looks so stark in the sunlight with the snow drifts gone from its trunk. Gnarled branches cast shadows where robins play hide-and-seek. This tree is old, a relic from the past that miraculously still offers food generations after it was planted. It is one of my favorite spots to watch the pond.

Ice has thinned to silver eggshells on Elmira Pond. A few hard frosts and it yet resists a full melt. Like a baby nearing her first steps, I know the melt will happen in a quick moment. The first steps for spring. The biggest change will happen when the ice recedes and migrators return to open water.

It's so early, yet I'm giddy for the birdwatching season to begin!

We explore the pond's eastern edge; something we don't do once water birds arrive because they nest here. So it's a treat to walk on the spongy peat and let Bobo hunt mice in the dry humps of grass. I've read that some Idaho peat ponds may yet have bog lemmings. Rodent-watching isn't my thing, so I'll leave it at a passing thought.

I look back at my house, the office window that gives me the best view of the pond and I'm struck by how quickly the snow has gone. Last year was drier, not a drought, but noticeably dry. And tree beetles attacked the pines. It can take several years for beetles to kill a tree and my heart sinks at the early signs. Dead pine needles and dead crowns are barely discernible, but there they are.

Droughts hasten the work of tree beetles. They do well in dry times. I hope the rainy season is merely taking a breather before dumping more rain on the Pacific Northwest. An early spring is one thing; an early dry spring is a potential threat to water eco-systems, grazing ranches and forest fires.

All I can do is watch and wait.

And then I  remember that the darkness never does overcome the light. Thus, I soak up the sunshine and watch the robins flit.

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills. (No bog lemmings or mice were harmed.)


  1. The snow is really gone and the robins have started to arrive already ....amazing when I look or walk in my backyard and the snow is still up to almost my knees :) I will start looking and listening for the robins in about a months time and am hoping most of the snow is gone by then. Your dogs must be getting so excited.

    1. What a huge difference between your place and mine this year! The dogs are definitely wanting to romp! Bobo ran off after some scent or another and scared me when she didn't come back right away. Maggie looks adorable, though, getting through the last bit of winter.

  2. I can relate to this change in the west coast too. Rains have long gone, even though our land needed lots of it. Temps are in 60-70's with high pollen as the birds and beens have started the pollination process.

    Shift in ecosystem is scary...but then I ponder that they too should be subjected to change ;)

    Beautiful clicks which could actually narrate a story, Charli.
    Pleasure to have you on board.

    1. Your land has become parched. I hope the Pacific ocean has some moisture planned for you yet. You, know you make a good point. The shift n ecosystem is scary, but why wouldn't it be subject to change? I know we hear a lot about the negative impact of global warming, but I'm also drawn to be an observer, and it's hard for me to be a negative observer. I'll continue to see the beauty and be a good steward where I can be. Thanks!

  3. This is gorgeous, Charli. Both photos and words. Your descriptions conjure up beautiful images supported by your photos. I love the thought of the pond with bed hair, and covered in ice like eggshells. I'd love to see your robins. One of my favourite books as a child was 'The Christmas Robin'. Your property sounds amazing the way you describe it. I'm sure it is more beautiful through your eyes. No wonder that murder of crows can't resist it!

    1. Nature writing is a passion I discovered reading the likes of Annie Dillard. I noticed that when I look for the beauty or simply observe what is there, the beauty pops out. Thanks for visiting! :-)

  4. your robins have returned! How beautiful..and I always think of the lovely book My Spring Robin that I loved to read to my daughter when she was little, that was the first time that I discovered that your robins are bigger and different to our little, squat fellows! She adored that book, still have it somewhere...and how different it all looks now in the hood, with all that snow just about gone. Beautiful. And so the light dispels the darkness, as it always does. Lovely post Charli :-)

    1. What a sweet book! I think of robins that way, too. They can get big-chested, especially the breeding males. I didn't know that yours are smaller! Big changes are coming with the absence of snow. Already the ice is mostly gone and geese are stopping by! Thanks!

  5. I have a robin that assists with my garden. We shared a contemplative moment on Wednesday, he pondering life' vicissitudes on the fence post while I dug the soil. There's something in his body language - a languid indifference, an avian shrug when I lay a worn on the surface. He'll watch it hooping, seeking a crack between two sods before he bursts into acrobatics; he plucks it from the muddy display shelf and undulates to his leafy sanctuary.

    1. That's quite the relationship you have with your garden assistant! A beautiful image, Geoff. Pine siskins are my little gardeners. They'll hop and pluck bugs off the underside of leaves and shower as openly as hippies in my garden hose spray.