Two thousand twenty-two, it’s the new year. Winter is passing, days are getting longer. But the change in day length is only a few minutes per day, not enough to be noticeable. Days aren’t any warmer. There’s snow on the ground, frequent flurries in the air, ice in our driveway.
I’m looking for signs of winter passing, signs of spring. I expect to see the first signs at my bird feeders. As I sit at the window by the dining room table or at my computer, eating and writing, I watch the birds at the feeders outside, looking for bird of spring, a species I haven’t seen this year.
But the only birds are the same species as I’ve been seeing all winter. They’re probably the same birds that I’ve been seeing all winter. There are house sparrows, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, and tufted titmice, blue jays, cardinals, downy woodpeckers, one red-bellied woodpecker, dark-eyed juncos and goldfinches. I’ve seen a hairy woodpecker, twice, at the suet feeder outside the dining room window.
I’m watching the bushes and trees around the feeders too, and the ground, looking for robins and mourning doves and other spring arrivals. I’m looking for song sparrows and chipping sparrows and house wrens. When I go outside and when I go to the barn I’m watching for barn swallows and when I go out in the pasture I look over the marsh, watching for tree swallows and red-winged blackbirds, a great blue heron and ducks and geese, when the pond isn’t ice covered.
When I go driving and I’m not hurrying to meet somebody, to an appointment, I drive country roads, frequently gravel roads. There I usually see crows, turkey vultures, kestrels and a red-tailed hawk. Occasionally this year I’ve seen a killdeer and a meadowlark. By a stream recently, my daughter, who was riding with me, spotted a belted kingfisher and pointed it out to me. It’s early, barely into the new year, but I’m looking for birds that are signs of spring.
I’m looking for signs of spring other than birds, too. Grass in the lawn turning green for example. Clover turning green and blooming. I stop and search for a four-leaf clover now and then, not because it’s a sign of spring, which it is, but because finding a four-leaf clover is a sign of good luck.
I watch for other animals when I’m driving too, of course. Squirrels, both fox and gray, have been coming to my bird feeders all winter and occasionally there’s been a chipmunk. Now I’m watching for a raccoon, at one of my feeders or along a road as I’m driving or riding with someone else. I’m seeing racoons, almost all dead in or along the side of the road.
I see deer at all times of the year but now I’m watching for does with spindly legged fawns. I’m looking for woodchucks, groundhogs, though groundhogs aren’t expected until March and it’s a month and a half until March and Groundhog’s Day.
It’s just into two thousand twenty-two, the New Year, yet I’m already looking for signs or spring.