Posted by: atowhee | April 2, 2020



“Yesterday I read Migration of Birds;
The Golden Plover and the Arctic Tern.
Today the big abstraction’s at our door
For juncoes and the robins all have left…
And in this hazy day
Of April summer heat
Across the hill the seabirds
Chase spring north along the coast:
Nesting in Alaska
In six weeks.”                          –Gary Snyder

Our April north of Snyder’s California home has no summer heat, and our juncoes and robins linger but the season is all around us.

Is it snide in this time of viral concern to speak of spring “fever”?  I can’t help myself. In other species fever is a way to describe heightened extremes of behavior. Though the air stays chill and uncomfortable plants and animals, besides our species, seem energetic and brimming with vitality.  Starlings nest-building.  Red-tails soaring in cozy couples.  Flickers perched side-by-side in a tall tree, day after day.  Bewick’s Wren singing in the rain, in our garden.  A Black-capped Chickadee bathing between a rain squall and a brief, pelting hail.  A cottonwood showing the eagerness of its kind, already leafed out, bold green against the blue sky and white clouds pretending to be harmless.  Meanwhile the sedate, patient oaks wait for true warmth before they even admit to believe in the new season, much less bud and leaf.  Two male Anna’s Hummingbirds on sentinel duty on opposite sides of the Joe Dancer wetlands.

Right now the true fever pitch of spring can be seen in the behavior of some male animals.  Unlike certain people from politicians to CEOs to generals, the testosterone-driven behavior in most animals reaches its peak in this season in the Northern Hemisphere. It will ebb in most species so they can get back to parenting or simply finding enough food.  Today I watched two male robins at Joe Dancer Park.  They were repeatedly engaged in aerial combat.  A third robin was nearby, the female whose presence was their inspiration for violence.  Thrush version of a fight about which guy gets to flirt with the waitress.

The two dueling male robins would face one another on the ground, usually within two feet of one another. One would take off and the other would then rise and the battle begin.  Here we see the observing robin to the left, the duelers on the far right:a (2)bHere is a series of landings and aerial skirmishes, all at the wetland in Joe Dancer Park:


Female flicker flies in to join “her” male.  Hermit Thrush flies into open areas of the Dancer wetlands to feed.  An Acorn Woodpecker flew onto a pole right above my head and posed in the evening sunlight–the glow doth show. Male kestrfel hunting from electric wire:


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