We've had an extra dose of winter this year, and people around here, myself included, are eager for any sign of spring. The return of the red-winged blackbird is often a predictor of the season. On most years, one day in the early spring, we'll hear a trill from the top of a tree, and see the flash of brilliant red wing patches against jet black feathers, and know that we'll be enjoying the company of the red-wing for several months. Last week, when snow blanketed the ground and the lake still wore its icy fringe, there was one mingling with the local birds at the bird feeder, and eating sunflower seeds, just as if he belonged here. They may be better weather predictors than the much touted groundhogs. This week has been beautiful and mild, and it feels like spring is just over the next hill.
Bluebirds, too, are pointing toward spring. They are the first birds to nest here each year, and last week they were out checking on the available birdhouses. With those hopeful signs, I went looking this morning for a Harbinger of Spring, those tiny white wild flowers that are the first to bloom in the spring, and are ubiquitous throughout the season. I didn't find one in any of the usual spots, but I did find a small patch of snow drops already up and blooming, their heads bowed in morning prayer. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
If Percy had lived in the Ozarks, he might have added a corollary:
if Blackbirds come, can Harbingers be far behind?