The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Spring Heralds Abound
Ro Wauer, February 29, 2004, The Victoria Advocate, © 2004

Fresh spring blooms, bird songs, and butterflies are everywhere these days. These wonderful indicators of the new season can hardly be missed. Richard Hovey wrote: "Spring in the world! And all things are made new." And Robert Herrich wrote: "Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen. To come forth, like the Springtime, fresh and green."

Anemones are already sprinkled across my yard. Their ten white petals contrast with the still brownish grasses. These little gems, sometimes known as "windflowers," are well known around the world, and are well known as early bloomers. A thousand years ago, the Saxons named their anemones "flaw-flowers" - flaw meaning gust - because they wave in every gust of spring winds. And Rainer Marie Rilke wrote: "Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems."

My personal spring bloom is that of the agarito. This thorny shrub produces bright yellow flowers as early as February that not only offers a sweet aroma, but also serves as a magnet to butterflies and bees. The buzzing of bees as they gather nectar from the flowers can usually be heard from a considerable distance. And examination of the flowers will usually result in finding several early butterflies: gray hairstreak, American snout, red admiral, and even the spring-only species: Henry's elfin.

Indian paintbrush is sprouting up along our roadsides, and it will soon be the time for Texas's own bluebonnets. Then is when the whole countryside can be alive with visual memories. Anne Morrow Lindberg wrote: "Today I went out. It smelled, it felt, it sensed spring. I had the first time faith - not intellectual belief, but a sudden feeling of turning tide. Yes, there will be spring." But Dorothy Parker observed: "Every year, back spring comes, with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off, and the ground all mucked up with arbutus."

One of our birds "yapping" its fool head off is the northern cardinal. This "red bird" starts yapping even before sunup in spring, proclaiming to the world that it is spring and this is my territory and any invaders must be wary. Their song, like "what cheer-cheer-cheer," is loud, clear and rich. Henry Nehrling wrote: "The cardinal is one of the jewels of our bird fauna, being incomparable in the combination of proud bearing and gaudy coloring, and unexcelled in certain qualities of its song. Few birds impart their haunts with such life, beauty, and poetry as this brilliant songster."

But the cardinal is only one of several springtime songsters that are beginning to serenade our landscapes. Another favorite is the Carolina wren, another of our yardbirds that is active much of the year, but increases its verbosity in spring. Even the rather dull tufted titmice and northern mockingbird seem happier and more excited than they did a few weeks ago. And what about the red-shouldered hawks that cruise overhead in spring, calling and diving in courtship, impressing their mates and even us human beings willing to appreciate their ardor.

Purple martins are due at out martin houses any day; they already are being seen in the southern and coastal areas of Texas. We very soon will be enjoying their mellow songs and marvelous antics. Robert Lemon wrote: "Martin small talk is as varied as it is incessant. When a colon is in full activity around its apartment house, swooping, fluttering, constantly coming and going, the air is filled with an amazing mixture of chippurs, squeaks, whistles, and trills, all uttered with engaging heartiness."

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1. "The beauty of our land is a natural resource. Its preservation is linked to the inner prosperity of the human spirit." Lyndon Baines Johnson

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