Are You There, Redwing Blackbirds?
Itís me, Kim. My mother heard you were in town today, and although she wasnít entirely sure, I kind of think sheís right. For one thing, it was Presidentís Day Weekend last week, and you usually show up in New Jersey around that time. In fact, you might even be a little late. But thatís OK. If youíre here now, thereís hope.
Hope that this winter will finally end.
It has been a harsh winter in the Northeastern United States. It has been even worse in the Mid-Atlantic States. Here in the New York area, we havenít had half the snow that hit Washington, DC. But it still has been bad. We had a snowstorm of about 10 inches over a week ago, and it still hasnít melted much. When I park my car, I park on ice. I cannot walk from my space in the parking lot to the sidewalk of my parking lot without climbing over a pile of stale snow. I drove into a water-filled pothole on the way to work the other day (probably formed from the snow and ice; Iíd never noticed it before) and it cost me $95.00 to replace the tire I busted.
There have been days that are so cold and so windy that the dog wonít stay outside as long as he should. The floors and rugs have borne the brunt of his frustration.
Even the Great Backyard Bird Count was a bit of a bust for me. I wanted to go to a park on the bay, where Iíd see a lot of ducks--or I would see a lot of ducks, if it were a still, cloudy day. Instead, it was sunny, frigid, windy and dangerous. The parkís access road was closed due to the snow, so I went to an inlet behind a strip mall across town. Iíve had good luck here in the past (especially during shorebird season), but not on this day. I saw 58 Canada Geese and 13 Ring-Billed Gulls, 2 Black Ducks and one Bufflehead. I sent in my data, and Iím sure it was appreciated, but even I wasnít very impressed by the quantity or variety of the birds I saw. I wouldíve stayed longer or walked further to see if there was anything else around, except the wind-chill was like 20 below and I almost slipped on the ice. Again.
I canít take any more.
But if the red-winged blackbird is back, I know the end is near. The redwing is the first bird to come north for the spring. It is also one of the most abundant (or the most abundant, according to some sources) birds in the United States. They also have one of the most recognizable calls, the conk-a-ree. The males are undeniably beautiful. They are, as the name suggests, black with red and yellow ďepaulets.Ē The females are brownish and streaky, similar in appearance to many female sparrows. Red-winged blackbirds would not make good wedding-cake toppers. They are polygynous, meaning each male has up to ten mates in his territory. The male may help one of his girlfriends take care of the babies, but the rest of them are on their own. They are also considered quite aggressive, and farmers consider them pests because they eat grain.
But I donít care. I love, love, love them. I donít care if they go into sex-addiction recovery with Tiger Woods. I donít care if they eat all the wheat in the Midwest. Iíll just go on a low-carb diet if they destroy the flour for my bread. If I see or hear a red-winged blackbird, it will be a happy day in my life.
Because if the redwings are here, then spring is near.