My morning walks with Dash have become quite musical lately.
The songbirds have been warming up their voices, looking for or reconnecting with a mate, establishing the territorial boundaries of future nestling nurseries.American robins don’t leave southwest Virginia for the winter but they, like most of the resident birds, are quieter in winter, and less visibly active. I’ve been watching them glean grassy spaces for worms and other tasty invertebrates for several weeks now, as the temperatures warmed and the soil became softer.Granivores (aka seed-eaters) and omnivores like the northern cardinal and blue jay, respectively, also stick around year-round, aided by the generous handouts of their human neighbors. They’ll share access to a feeder, with their own species and others, especially in winter. On this spring morning, however, one male cardinal had opinions about property claims and he was shouting them to the rooftops!Other birds, particularly insectivores like the cerulean warbler and the blue-headed vireo, left for buggier climes back in autumn, returning to North America for spring and summer and the serious work of raising a family.
Me and my terrier-boy? We’re semi-migratory. Actually, the better classification would probably be nomads. We move, stay in that habitat for a year or two, disperse, repeat. Sometime we return to a former home range for a while, sometimes a location is one-and-done. There are pros and cons to this life strategy, as with every other, but it has definitely allowed us to see and hear a wide variety of songbirds![Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: DiaGraphic; koorosh B; Carolyn Lehrke; Chad Horwedel; Aaron Maizlish; and Claudine Lemothe. © 2017 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]
April showers bring May flowers, we’re told, but in my neck of the woods the saying should probably be February showers (and other, colder types of precipitation) bring March flowers.
I first noticed the snowdrops on a morning in late February, peeking their sleepy heads out from beneath a blanket of soil and an overnight dusting of snow. Their appearance seemed too appropriate to be the result of accidental timing… it was as if one of them had overheard the weather forecast playing on the smartphone of a passing dog walker and word had spread, buzzing like an alarm clock through the entire bed of bulbs. Wake up!
A few days later the winter aconites near the local police station were brightening a week of gray skies.Soon there were crocuses (croci?)…Drawing closer to the Spring Equinox, our morning walk had Dash posing with some snowy posies… in this case, daffodils.No matter the weather (sunny or gray, warm or cold), no matter the phase of precipitation (liquid, solid, gas)… the spring flowers have arrived!
[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: Barbara Friedman; Andy Rogers; julochka; liz west; Corey Templeton; and Kieran Lindsey © 2018 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]
On the mostly brown and gray palette that is the late February landscape here in southwestern Virginia, I’m beginning to notice startlingly bright splashes of emerald.
There’s something about mosses that makes me want to stop in my tracks, fall to my knees, and get nose-to-sporangium up-close and personal with these tiny plants.
They work so hard to soften the world’s hard edges and fill in neglected gaps… seldom receiving any accolades, or even notice.
Mosses beg to be petted—so soft and furry, they are the chinchillas of the plant world. Verdant shag carpeting that cushion any footstep and absorb any harsh sound… makes me wonder what the world would be like if it were entirely carpeted in moss.
[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: Guido Gloor Modjib; Holly Bourne; AI; Benny; Thomas Shahan; and Kerry Lannert. © 2018 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]
While the tree branches are still bare, and there are no flash green plants to pull focus, I decided to spend this morning’s walk looking at evidence of cooperation at a small scale.Lichens are organisms that developed through a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. This partnership has gone on to form many variations, and the different shapes and colors add visual variety to what would otherwise be a pretty monotone winter landscape.
When I picture lichen, I tend to imagine subdued shades of olive and willow green, pale bottle green… possibly mixed with chalky ivory or slate gray.But lichens also come in bright, almost phosphorescent tones of chartreuse, and even basketball orange…
or egg-yolk yellow…and other hues that wake up my eyes to the other overlooked colors in an otherwise muted landscape.
[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: Randi Hausken; Holly Gramazio; Kaarina Dillabough; Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough; Andy Armstrong; Dominic Alves; and Richard Droker. © 2018 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]