Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Bachelors Have Arrived

The paper calendar is not the only way to mark the passage of landmarks in a year. Today we noted as we gazed on waking that the big maple tree outside our bedroom window (we call our bedroom the tree house) was gamely putting forth healthy new buds on the bare branches. This in the teeth of a Nor'easter surrounding South Jersey and belting us with rain and puffs of strong wind. Winter has not really come in its worst -- it usually hits harder in January -- but these buds are insisting on making preparations for next spring. We will monitor their daily progress as the wakings progress one on another.

We watch, similarly, where on the old wallpaper the sun shines of a morning. Right now it's very low and only glimmers a short time into our window, and then ducks below the neighbor's garage to the south.

Remarking that with this Nor'easter we might see unusual birds blown into the neighborhood, we embarked on our day as usual. I sit at my desk at the front corner of the house and do a bunch of computer work (or play, depending on how you think of it), and keep an eye on the status of the quiet little street we live on. Lots of wet leaves and puddles this morning.

One harbinger we have been looking actively and expectantly for during the past month or so is the arrival of the "Bachelors" , and today, while I was tapping away on the computer, a big swarm of birds gathered on the porch and street-side leaf pile across the street. Yep, they were bobbing, and as I rose from my seat and got a better look at them, they did, indeed, have the red breasts and dapper silhouettes of the Bachelor Robins!

Two winters ago we watched in amazement as a huge flock of these all male young robins gobbled up, in about three day's effort, nearly every one of the red berries on our neighbor's very large holly tree -- a tree that is so tall it matches our big old maple! We did some research to figure out why these robins were not "south" (aren't robins supposed to migrate south for the winter?) and why they were all batched together in such numbers. They were raiding the tree like starlings! A new phenomenon for us.

Last winter we didn't see them, but the holly tree had not really totally recovered from the previous raid. But this fall we noticed that the tree was sporting a huge fresh harvest of red berries, and we wondered to each other whether the Bachelors had gotten wind of it. are here. I hope they get occupied with our neighbor's tree and leave our newly rescued little female holly alone. As we were clearing out downed trees, I noticed that one large trunk had come down right against a young holly tree in the woods of our new bit of property out back. Once my scientist engineer had cleverly extricated the big dead trunk from around the poor bent holly, I noticed that this one had lovely red berries. It has begun to stand up straighter now that its burden is gone, but it always will be a crooked tree, and we will always love it like a rescued stray. And I will harvest holly tips with red berries from it, and it will enjoy being pruned a little.

So, the day of the Bachelors has arrived, and now we can see what comes next in the natural calendar. I notice that the winter pansies are looking robust, ready to shine above the snow later in the season, and the day lilies are mistakenly poking up green new leaves! That's ok. They will hunker down again, and try again in spring. We do have a lot of hungry little flittery friends at the bird feeder, but our cat is preferring to lie in front of the fire (we call it his TV) to watching the birds today. It's the bottom of the year. In a week, we can start climbing back up along with the sunshine on the wallpaper.

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