There is no doubt in my mind that winter is the most dramatic of our northern seasons. The imbalance of my nature photos easily attests to that. Trees smothered in white cloaks, low shafts of sun creating diamonds on the new fallen snow, the patterns the ice creates for mysterious reasons, the overly dramatic sunsets, and on and on. Not only a season of shades of black and white, there are also the cold blues of ice and sky and the deep dark greens of those eternal evergreens.
But it is spring that overwhelms with color. Let me delay the telling of the flowers and the blossomings and the burgeoning leaves for another time. Today, in spite of a steady and very cold rain, my world is awash in the most fantastic colors.
Just in case it is raining as you read this, let me remind you of the glories of spring with this passage from one of my favorite authors: "Little soft clouds played happily in a blue sky, skipping from time to time in front of the sun as if they had come to put it out, and then sliding away suddenly so that the next might have his turn. Through them and between them the sun shone bravely; and a copse which had worn its firs all the year round seemed old and dowdy now beside the new green lace which the beeches had put on so prettily."
The first clutch of goslings appeared shortly after May Day. My reckoning is inexact because Mother Goose chose an island for her nest not easily observable and because I suspect she kept the babies close until the temperatures crept back up beyond freezing. Now, however, the pair brings the wee seven to feed on cracked corn several times a day. The goslings retain still a bit of the earliest green as they yellow up.
Coming and accepted by the geese for the same buffet are a varying number of mallards and wood ducks. With few exceptions the feeders are all male: the mallard's head glistening in its fluorescent green, one of nature's most unbelievable shades, and, to keep him properly humble, those bright orange legs. The wood duck seems to have been designed by an artist gone mad with the leftovers of a wonderful palette, and definitely worthy of all the attention his colors demand.
The rose-breasted grosbeaks have returned, two males coming to flash their blood red chests. The truer red of the cardinal dazzles regularly now through the leafy branches. Has he left his mate to mind the nest? A recurrence of the blue jays, their screeches announcing their arrival, adds a patriotic touch to my feeder. Meanwhile the red-winged blackbirds are decked out in their brightest epaulets, eagerly advertising their willingness to mate. The goldfinch has sloughed off its winter drab and easily catches one's eye with its sunbright yellow. Even the red on the back of the downy and hairy males' heads seems to have brightened up with the season.
The bane of amateur birders, I find the comparisons of the house and purple (indeed) finch easy when they share the bar at the feeding station. The white-crowned sparrow, meanwhile, has replaced his white-throated cousin while the crest of the chipping sparrow brightens the lawn and deck. The yellow-bellied woodpecker, totally oblivious to and belying his name, flashes perhaps the most brilliant red of all. I welcome his return, especially now that he seems content to do his drumming on a tree rather than the TV antenna or side of the house. The extra sleep is appreciated.
From the quietly growing grass to the birds who find their feed in it, the world seems happily alive as it obviously also did to A. A. Milne in "Winnie-the-Pooh."
I revel in each movement and shade.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org