Friday, February 20, 2009

HOPE WEARS RED FEATHERS

“Hope,” wrote Emily Dickinson, “is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune…” In today’s case, hope’s personification is a sassy cardinal attired in bright scarlet, perched on a branch near the feeding station. All morning he has been singing: “What cheer, cheer, cheer! What cheer, cheer, cheer, cheer! There can be no doubt the news is encouraging when old Mr. Redbird rears back and rings out his message. “What cheer, cheer, cheer!” His positive outlook and enthusiastic proclamation is contagious. “What cheer, cheer, cheer! For months now, all I’ve heard from the gaudy cardinals have been their usual, “Purrt! Purrt! Purrt!” as they went about their business nabbing a few sunflower seeds from the basket feeder, or pecking at cracked corn scattered on the ground. But now the redbird’s song is one of procreation. Spring is there, not too great a distance over the seasonal horizon, and it’s inexorably heading our way. The cardinal knows. Moreover, he intends getting the word out. “What cheer, cheer, cheer! The weatherman says we’ll be getting several inches of snow over the next few days. Such dire predictions have not dampened the redbird’s buoyant spirits one iota. That colorful ol’ bird began singing at daylight, and has continued his upbeat recital every hour since. I’d be willing to wager he’ll carry on the concert when the air is thick with snowflakes, and after the ground has a fluffy new blanket of pristine white. Hope has filled my ears all morning, and now it fills my heart. “What cheer, cheer, cheer!

20 comments:

Jenn Jilks said...

How delightful! We do not have any cardinals around here. We are on the end of a long peninsula, on a small lake. When I lived in Manotick, ON, we had one that sang a song of joy every dawn, such as yours does.

I miss their songs - such a variety of creatures in this world. We do have many others, my favourite new (local) find is still the flying squirrel! Thanks for the reminder!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

I've been away for a couple of hours since posting this piece—but when I pulled down the drive a few moments ago and hopped from the truck, the first sound I heard was that cheerful cardinal singing away.

I wish you could hear him!

KGMom said...

I am so glad we have several cardinal pairs that winter over in central PA.
I love their spring calls--which sound to me like "Pretty, pretty, pretty" and I think--yes, you are.
I also love it that cardinals are always paired. At our feeders, Mr. and Mrs. stop by for an evening snack--he eats, she waits, then she eats, he waits.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Leave it to the cardinals to brighten up any winter morning, no matter how dreary. And you're right, they do usually come in pairs. (For what it's worth, I think female cardinals are almost prettier than the males—less gaudy, more refined in dress.)

From the great room's main window, I can probably see a dozen to two-dozen redbirds on a given morning, with 4-8 at the feeders and eating cracked corn within 5 feet of the window. I usually don't count the exact ratio of males to females, but it's generally close to 50-50 for sure.

My numbers will drop dramatically in coming weeks as the males become more territorial. Right now they're really just tuning up.

Gail said...

The cardinals have been visible and lovely in the forsythia bramble surrounding our yard and the brook.

I love the spirit of hope - I have a tree named "Hope"....people bring items that mean 'hope' to them and they hang them on the 'hope-tree' and thus, the tree is filled with 'hope'. She is beautiful and covered in sparkling diamond dust - I swear it's true! :-)

Love Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Now that's a great idea…a hope tree! Have you written it's story yet? If not, you certainly should. Hope is the beginning of faith.

Gail said...

Hi again-

yes, I wrote all about "Hope- The Tree"....it is posted on my blog. It is a wonderful story of how she came to grace our home.

Peace and hope for us all
Gail

forest wisdom said...

Cardinals are truly an extraordinary bird, and though they are very common in my neck of the woods, I never tire of seeing their bright crimson beauty or of hearing them so boldly proclaim themselves from the treetops.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What a jolly, cheerful post this morning Scribe - oh how I wish I could see that wonderful bird and hear him sing. Here too our male birds are beginning to sing - the thrush, the blackbird, the chaffinch, the yellowhammer and the robin are all perfecting their Spring tunes. Oh what joy to come.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I will have to look up and read that entry.

giggles said...

I'll be sure to listen for that "special" call!! I had no idea of it's nature!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Forest Wisdom…

I love hearing them, too—even though they're not quite the songster as a robin. But that flaming red dress more than makes up for any slight lack.

I'm glad you have them in abundance up your way. Everyone should have cardinals—for color and song. But between Jenn's earlier comment on having a cardinal dearth, and yours of plentitude, I'm wondering where their numbers disappear? My Peterson's simply says "southern Canada." In thinking, however, during all the times I've spent rambling around the south shore of Lake Superior, I'm not sure I've ever seen a cardinal on the U.P. or over in Wisconsin while fishing the Brule and other streams. Could have been just the fact I was in jackpine/trout country. But the cut-off surely isn't too much farther north. I can't remember whether Sig Olson ever mentions them in his books, either. Do you see them in the Boundary Waters?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I had a notion you'd get a kick out of this cardinal post and photo. I wrote it with you in mind. And I wish you could hear my jolly fellow, too.

We're just about a month early for any real birdsong hereabouts. This is just a tune-up, an unlimbering of the ol' pipes prior getting serious about telling the female world what a fine and suitable mate he'd make, while informing his fellow singers that this territory is already staked out.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Love, territory, impending weather fronts…and doubtless just the sheer joy of being alive on a sunny day. Birds sing—and sometimes sing differently—for various reasons. There are warning calls, feeding calls, locator or keeping-in-touch calls, too, though these are more apt to be more abrupt, less musical.

I suspect sometimes a bird will sing just to hear himself fill the air with music. Of course some would say I was being anthropomorphic—but I think not.

JMS said...

I lived on the south shore of the Greatest Lake for three years. I never saw a cardinal but they came through occasionally. The local birders would be all a-twitter when it happened. A native Ohioan, I took them for granted until I moved north.

Beautiful photo--the out-of-focus background is as interesting as the subject.

forest wisdom said...

Grizzled,
Interesting...you got me thinking, and...I can't recall ever having heard or seen a Cardinal in the BWCA. And yet I see them regularly here a few hours south.... Methinks I'll have to have a look into this issue of range.... Thanks.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

I've been fishing and camping and exploring northern Michigan, especially the U.P., for thirty-odd years. I have a piece of property on Lake Superior. And it is my life's goal to catch every brook trout in the northcountry. Oddly, not every trip I've taken up there has been focused on trout. I am occasionally aware of my surroundings. I look, listen to, and love white-throated sparrows, grosbeaks one and all, and even the sandhill cranes I've photographed on the Kingston Plains. So you'd think I'd have seen a cardinal if one had been in front of me…though maybe not.

I can't even recall seeing one when I was on the Lower Peninsula around Grayling (Au Sable , more trout) and I know they're farther north than that. In my case, it was probably the country itself—good habitat for trout and grosbeaks, wrong for redbirds. Your comment at least make me think I wasn't just unobservant.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Forest Wisdom…

You are going to have to figure this out for us. It simply may be that I (we) focus more on birds less common to our home area, and simply "white out" the usual species. Yet I certainly notice and remember both blue jays and gray jays, crows and ravens, etc. A couple of years ago I was camped by the Fox River north of Seney and perhaps a hundred robins came winging in and began poking about the short grass. The ground was sandy, thus no worms, so they didn't stay long. But I remember them well.

See what you can come up with. I'm curious.

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