Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Early Birds

A robin joined us a few days ago. She was a cheery splash of orange in a still, monochromatic landscape. Unfortunately, we had little to offer in the way of robin amenities.

Warmth? Sorry.
Leaves? Nope.
Bare ground? Just one spot, over the septic tank, I'm afraid.
Worms? Good luck.

It's tempting to think of the first robin sighting as the turning point in the seasons, but I've noticed that the real signs of spring are the scavengers.

Behold, spring comes on the wings of crows.

Though crows spend most of the winter with us, their numbers seem to slip south as we get deeper into winter. During a melt in mid-March, I noticed their numbers seeming to swell. They follow the pulsing interstates north, necking down to state highways, county trunks and finally slushy township and village roads. With each exit ramp the south fades from them like the tans that those of us who stayed behind lost in November.

They are migrant workers harvesting the season's first crop: roadkill. Fender-tenderized whitetails emerge from snowbanks alongside rabbit-ala-road. Four months of plowing has arranged a steady stack of carrion blooming in the ditches, as the warming temps throw open the door on the north's roadside meat locker. The crows eat their way home on this, bumper crop.

There's been no sign of our robin guest since the blizzard. Gambling on spring is risky business in the north, so sometimes, when the early birds can't catch their worms, they're caught by the weather.

And then by the crows.

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