Sunday, April 26, 2009
Spring’s migrating warblers are a treetop treasure—mysterious, dazzling, at once filling your eyes and ears with the vernal joys of the season. I began expecting them in early-April, watching and listening…hoping to confirm in my heart what I know in my head—that in this age of great uncertainty some things can still be counted on to follow the ancient rhythms. Spring’s passing warblers are messengers of reassurance. When I heard an odd trill yesterday morning, followed by a sharp chup, chup, the sound was both foreign and familiar—not something I’d been hearing recently, but something I’d heard before. It’s the same way every year…though I’ve been waiting and anticipating the call, I’m still surprised when I hear it, caught off guard. The bird was flitting through the top of a greening hackberry which leans over the river. I’m not very good at instantly identifying warblers, but this one was pretty easy thanks to the bright yellow patch on the top of the back at the base of the tail—yellow-rumped. A few yellow-rumped warblers actually winter over in Ohio, though I’ve never seen one. Most yellow-rumps, however, winter in the southern half of the U.S. They spend their summer in the north, from upper Michigan throughout Canada. During each of the springs I've witnessed here along the river, the yellow-rumped has been the first warbler to show up. Yesterday was one of those spectacular spring days April occasionally serves up—temperatures in the low-80s, a cloudless sky so crisply blue that it looks newly minted. I’d spent the early part of the morning working at the rear of the cottage on a patio I’m building. I’d just poured a cup of coffee and taken a seat in the rocker on the deck overlooking the river when the warbler appeared. I hadn’t intended to linger… But my philosophy allows that life is short. Work and responsibility are important—but so are such things as rivers sparkling in the sun, wildflowers blooming along the banks, and warblers flitting about like feathered jewels in the nearby trees. So I went back inside momentarily for camera, binoculars, and the coffee thermos, then resettled myself in the rocking chair. A man has to consider all priorities.