Hearty harbingers

by • April 4, 2013 • ToastComments (0)161

Birds remind us all that spring is just around the corner

Voracious winter eaters can consume two feeders’ worth of sunflower seeds in one afternoon. By Melissa DeVaughn

Voracious winter eaters can consume two feeders’ worth of sunflower seeds in one afternoon. By Melissa DeVaughn

The birds are at it again, and I know this not because I am looking out the kitchen’s French doors at their activity but because I hear them from up here at my desk in the den. The feeder frenzy outside has begun.

It starts about an hour after sunrise every morning. Chickadees, pine grosbeaks and assorted other small birds flock to the feeders in numbers often exceeding 50 at a time. Does it matter that I haven’t bothered to identify them — that I just like looking at them? I feel like I should be educating myself on these avian acrobats, not just staring, but it’s what I do.

They flit so quickly it’s impossible to get an accurate count. Occasionally, a squirrel will join the mix, sending our Gordon Setter into paroxysms of hunting anxiety. I find myself standing by the doors, wasting valuable time watching them. I wonder if somewhere in the near future, area biologists are going to notice a spike in the bird population on a certain 2.5-acre parcel of land in Chugiak, and fund studies to find out what the fuss was all about. I wonder if the birds will find it so nice here that they’ll stick around this summer and perhaps help eradicate our mosquito population. I waste far too much time with these birds.

Yet I love them. This gluttonous feeding of every bird that lives within a five-mile radius of our home has become a slight addiction on my part. I spend more money on bird seed than I do milk and eggs for the family. I fret when I leave the house, knowing the feeders are getting low and the greedy birds are going to be disappointed. I nag my husband daily to refill the feeders, even when I’m out of town and checking in by phone.

The feeders will go away come spring thaw, when curious bears begin to awaken, but for now I’m fully engaged in the birds’ antics. The birds, to me, are proof that we really don’t have to hunker down all winter and that if we prepare mightily, we will be ready for all that awaits us this spring and summer. The birds do it, plucking seeds from the feeder and secreting them into tiny pockets of trees, along the woodshed’s rooftop crevices and into cracks along the driveway’s rock wall. They are getting ready for spring and summer, maybe even storing those morsels for hard winters yet to come. They, like us, are making plans.

This month, Coast is in full-planning mode, too. We’re included our annual State of the Trails profile on Pages 21-23. This information-packed primer shares the best hiking/biking/riding trails to be found, and this year we’ve also made it a handy pullout to detach and take with you on your next adventure.

We’ll also help you line out your summer of racing. Triathlon season gets under way soon, starting with the Gold Nugget, which on March 5 quickly filled to its 1,500-woman capacity. Find out more about it on Page 8.

If you’re like me, and have a soft spot for our winged friends, see what Lisa Maloney suggests for birding outings locally in her Apres column, Page 11. Or plan your own educational trip to one of several birding festivals held in the spring (Page 6).

For those who still aren’t ready to say goodbye to the snow, that too can be tackled this month. Read Mike Buck’s fascinating story on biking to Knik Glacier (Beginning on Page 14), a surprisingly accessible spring outing just a day trip away from Anchorage.

As for me, I’m looking fully forward to sunshine — hiking mountains, riding bikes, running a few races and yes, if the mood strikes, maybe even getting out a bird book and identifying a few warm-weather species here to join the summer fun, too. ◆

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