This morning at 6:52 A.M. I was awakened by the call of a male northern cardinal; it was not prolonged and it sounded as if he was warming up - but it was a trial run of a sound which will soon become very frequent in the garden.
In his Spring in Washington, published nearly seventy years ago, Louis J. Halle records the January 22nd day he left his home at daybreak and was greeted by the sound of a cardinal calling in a tree across the street. He wrote
"The mathematicians reckon that spring begins March 21, but the mathematicians are a month behind the season the year around. For those who observe the first signs, spring comes earlier than others know. Before the end of January, while the scenery remains desolate and the sun leaves no warmth, the first sparks are already being enkindled in the breasts of songbirds. As I left my home at daybreak January 22, under a cloud rack becoming visible, in a dead tree across the street a cardinal was singing cue-cue-cue-cue-cue-cue, rapidly, all on one pitch and without variation. "
This wonderful book has been my generous companion for decades: who would have guessed that so much pleasure could be bought in a used book store for 50 cents?
Later in the morning Biscuit wanted to go out, and as I opened the front door I got a real surprise: the front lawn was spangled with starlings and robins. A flicker flew out of a nearby tree, and I could hear a blue jay calling from the back yard: the birds are on the move!
Here are some of the robins: