The month of February is notorious as a time when winter is most noticeable.
Around here we often get the same kind of weather—snow and very cold temperatures—in February as in January, and January this year was pretty hard. But the six
decades of winters in my memory remind me that February is often fickle, too.
It may start out cold, then warm into the 40s with overcast skies and some rain
for a week or two.
This year, February began with a variation on this. It started out warm and
sunny, with temps reaching the 50s on February 5th. I'm not complaining; after
a cold and snowy January, it's nice to get weather that feels like spring.
The snow is melting and the wild birds are singing. I watched a white breasted
nuthatch land on the birdfeeder at the window, while another stopped about
a foot away. They didn't pay much attention to each other, and each flew off
with a sunflower seed. Moments later, they were back, but this time a third
nuthatch joined them. This caused one of the others to fly off, and the remaining
one to spread his wings and tail feathers in a fierce display. The third nuthatch
responded in kind. The two continued their stand off for ten seconds or so
hissing at each other with their long, sharp beaks wide open. Then off they
flew, one chasing after the other. This display of territorial aggression between
two males is a sure sign of spring.
The black-capped chickadees, too, are feeling spring in the air, as they sing
their courtship songs to each other. I always stop and whistle with them for
a while. Their song is short but so cheery and upbeat—just what's needed
on a winter day!
The chickadee's cousin, the Tufted titmouse, is also singing his favorite
spring song. He's slightly smaller than the chickadee, but his spring tune
is a little bit bolder: "peto, peto, peto, peto," all in the same,
The woodpeckers, too, are letting their presence be known by hammering on
a hard, dead tree limb. The loud, rapid hammering echoes down the valley, letting
everyone know where the woodpecker's territory is.
For the past week, the male Red-bellied woodpeckers have been calling to each
other. Their spring song is a throaty, melodic gurgle, very pleasant to the
ear. They have striking black and white striped backs and creamy undersides,
set off by a fiery red cap. Both males and females are very handsome indeed.
The male's red cap runs up over the top of his head to his beak, while the
female's red covers her neck but stops short of the top of her head. The "Red-bellied" moniker
refers to a few blush feathers on the lower belly. These bold woodpeckers are
about the size of a Blue jay. They are very vocal and will always let you know
when they are around with their loud "kwirr, kwirr!"
Usually, the spring bird songs begin at the end of February. Because the unseasonable
weather warmed February a little early, they are showing up ahead of schedule
this year. It's a great time to keep your ears open, and let the songs of spring
come to you. Make listening a habit each time you go out the door. The bird
you'd like to see may be only a song away.
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