Things are unfolding quickly with the onset of warm weather. By yesterday afternoon, there was already a blush of green on Sapsucker Ridge, which is dominated by wild black cherries. Unlike sweet cherries, they leaf out first, and then flower. They also exude globules of resin, appropriately amber-colored, with the consistency (though not quite the stickiness) of rubber cement. You can find them glistening among the forest litter: too brown to be an amphibian egg mass, too translucent to be excrement.
This morning, the flowering cherry beside my porch was in full bloom as I sat outside before sunrise listening to the birds. For the second morning in a row, I heard a new song for the year: Trees, trees, murmuring trees, one of the two calls of the black-throated green warbler. Like most warbler songs — and unlike, say, the song of the hermit thrush — it’s not exactly melodious. But there’s something very exciting about it all the same, an urgent, whispery summons to some great event.
After finishing my coffee, I went inside for a book of poetry and, as I do so often, picked up Tranströmer’s collected poems. I resumed my seat and opened the book at random to a poem called “Lament.”
Whistlings from the greenery — men or birds?
And cherry trees in bloom embrace the trucks that have come home.
A goldfinch still in its winter plumage darted through the cherry blossoms, snapping up a couple of insects and singing all the while. Warblers may not warble, but goldfinches certainly do!
A couple poems later, I was surprised by a pair of mallard ducks flying low over the yard in front of me. What the hell? I jumped up and ran to the edge of the porch to watch. They banked and circled the field, then came back a second time. Then a third. The fourth time they wheeled around and came in for a landing right below the house on the bank of the stream, about fifty feet from the porch. I stood stock-still, watching as the female explored the bottom of a log, then poked slowly along the stream. The male stood sentinel for a few minutes, then waddled off in pursuit, quacking authoritatively.
It wasn’t hard to guess what they were up to. Though we don’t have a real pond, just a couple of vernal pools, mallards have nested in the field at least twice before. I don’t think it’s a good spot for them, with many predators and no body of water to offer a refuge. But that didn’t stop me from hoping that we’d be found worthy. I guess nobody wants to feel like they’ve been rejected by a duck.
See also the Dharma Bums’ latest report: clear on the other side of the continent, another seemingly unsuitable yard has just been adopted by a pair of mallards.