Gray and glorious dawns the day, a heaviness of humidity saturates the cool, still air. Huge droplets of water cling to the branches of the trees outside my office window. Nary a bird cheeps nor appears at the feeders. It is serene and still.
The house is quiet, except for the soft crooning on Norah Jones floating through the air. Jasper, my gentle giant, and Biscuit, my little black crack kitty, are curled into the folds of the comforter on the waterbed. Papa Jack, my orange tabby, has claimed the furry throw on the couch.
It's one of those days when I want to join the cats for a sleep-in, then bake chocolate chip cookies and spend the day reading in bed. But, alas, the deadline looms and now that I've surveyed my surroundings and tallied my cats, it's time to buckle down and demand that creativity flow through my veins.
The welcomed mid-March change of weather has lightened my steps and cheered my mind considerably. Day light is lengthening and signs of spring are in the air. All traces of snow are gone. This past weekend I checked for budding pussy willows. Only a few had popped, but by next week they should be near bursting.
My resident eagles are perching in their nest tree. Susan Kostka spotted a robin in her city yard on March 13. Hawks are on the wing and migrating northward. We heard a mourning dove cooing by Liz Kostka's place on Big Portage.
Last Saturday Mariah and I spotted seven trumpeter swans. By Sunday, there were a dozen of the magnificent birds floating on a nearby creek. The stranded cygnet that spent the winter on the stream leading out of my lake remains pacing the open water. It miraculously survived the winter and we are hopeful the yearling will be reunited with its family group in the coming weeks.
At this time of year I'm always on the alert for early migrant birds. Horned larks and hawks are among the first to head north. Then I look for wood ducks, swans and red-winged blackbirds to appear. One of the best sources of interesting and unusual statewide sightings is the Minnesota Birding Report, which is sponsored by the Minnesota Ornithologists Union.
For Thursday, March 13, the weekly summary noted a gyrfalcon was again seen in the Duluth-Superior area near the Port Terminal, at Canal Park and at the Superior Landfill. A Townsend's solitaire was spotted at Grand Superior Lodge in Castle Danger in Lake County on March 10 and a flock of Bohemian waxwings showed up in the town of Virginia on March 9.
Two birders reported seeing a Eurasian collared-dove in Renville and near New Germany in northwestern Carver County. The band-tailed pigeon that has been visiting a residence near Hastings since November is stilling hanging out there.
Closer to home, a northern saw-whet owl was heard along Aitkin County Road 18 on March 5. A great gray owl was found along state highway 65 near the Rice Lake Wildlife Refuge in Aitkin County on the same day. On March 7 a varied thrush visited bird feeders in south St. Cloud. In Blue Earth, (Faribault County) another varied thrush has been frequenting a backyard since March 10. I'm especially interested in tracking these thrushes, which are usually found in the West, because of sightings in the last few years near Brainerd and Motley and not far from my place last fall when Barb Coffman had a male varied thrush in her yard.
Photographing nature in all her splendor, spotting birds, watching wildlife, walking in my woods and through the wetlands give me a sense of serenity and peace. But now that I've penned my words and thoughts of pleasure, my mind moves on to more serious matters about what is happening in our world today.
On the local level, people work on their water pumps and septic systems. On the state level, there is talk of protecting city water sources and the Mall of America from potential terrorism. On the national level, the legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge failed to pass by a slim margin. On the global level, war commenced in Iraq last night.
Many folks will go about their daily tasks with an ear to the radio and an eye to the television for the distressing news of war. Conversations about what will happen next fill the coffee shops, cafes, streets, markets, workplaces and homes across the world. I believe the talk is universal.
And who isn't thinking about the devastation, the lives lost, the bodies maimed, the minds shattered, the hearts broken and the tears that will fall now and forever?
On a personal level, while the morning gray and glorious and my setting is serene, I am sad about the hate that rages in our human hearts. But, my concerns are not only for mankind, but also for the wildlife and natural wonders of the world.
The winds of war blow and I weep.
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