Page 8 - March 23, 2022
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  MARCH 23, 2022                                                                                                                                                                                                                            MARCH 23, 2022  |  { 9 }
              MARCH MADNESS                                       Continued from cover

     undaunted as they dove and wiggled                                                                            and great horned owls have young whose
     their hindquarters in apparent glee.                                                                          heads are visible and often have achieved
        March is a fence-sitter. Straddling                                                                        some size by mid-March. Their early
     between winter and spring it pays the                                                                         nesting strategy gives them an additional
     groundhog no mind, and casts its own                                                                          leg up on any would-be rivals, of which
     shadows on sunny days—or clouds can                                                                           there are none. And they will be able to
     blanket the landscape in gray. Its temper-                                                                    capture others’ spring babies as their
     ament is as unpredictable as an exhaust-                                                                      own young grow larger.
     ed child before bedtime. If I’ve stolen                                                                          A warm day will often bring out the
     away to a sunnier and warmer clime for                                                                        earlier-calling frog species. Wood frogs
     a week or two in February, I can enjoy                                                                        are among the first voices, sounding
     March’s contrasts. But absent a break,                                                                        like distant quacking ducks. At times a
     the bleaker days just seem too heavy on                                                                       spring peeper or chorus frog will find the
     the brow. It is this contrast that gives                                                                      warmth irresistible and chime in. The
     such grandeur to the splendid ones.                                                                           chorus frog’s call is often compared to a
        The advancement of the clocks tests                                                                        thumb being pulled across the teeth of
     my will to arise from bed, as my head                                                                         a comb. It will rarely match the din of a
     lies heavy on the pillow. But the contrast                                                                    May chorale but it can be impressive.
     of a brightened evening, come five p.m.,                                                                         You may see a flit of blue like a
     is stimulating. The 20th is the best gift                                                                     mirage at your feet. Your eyes may not
     of all, celebrated today and by our tribal                                                                    be deceiving you; stay very still and keep
     ancestors around the globe—the spring                                                                         looking. Spring azure butterflies will   awaited mate, all in an effort to produce
     equinox. I envision druids and shamans                                                                        dance about along the ground, on days   progeny.
     in gowns circling the campfires, like                                                                         not fit for most butterflies, making the   Red maples will flower in minute
     those found in art deco paintings, and a                                                                      most of their three days as an adult and   buds that make the riverbanks take on a
     Celtic fiddle being played at Stonehenge.   A male hooded merganser lifts his comb,                           seeking out a mate to create the next   rosy hue. Woodchucks (groundhogs) and
     The spring is indeed a romantic time   clearly displaying the derivation of his name                          generation. A brown flash with creamy   black bears will come out of hibernation.
     and not just for people. Animals begin to   “hooded.” Raised feathers make his head                           borders, the mourning cloak—one of our   Eastern bluebirds will take nature’s
     show their restless tribal yearnings too,   appear enormous and especially interesting to                     earliest butterflies—will pump and amble  cues and lay the eggs of their first brood.
                                          prospective mates. PHOTO BY AUTHOR
     for now spring has sprung.                                                                                    past on a wooded trail and disappear like  As spring advances to summer some
        In early March ponds along the          Mourning cloak butterflies come out of                             a magician’s coin.                will actually lay three sets of eggs. Few
     Bayshore host small groups of hooded      hibernation in early spring and are often                              Wild turkeys begin to fan their tails   efforts will match the bluebirds’ devo-
     mergansers (ducks). Males dance around   seen in wooded areas. PHOTO: FRITZ FLOHR                             and turn with the precision of a slow-  tion. Incubation is up to two weeks and
     a female with rapt attention. Their flat-                REYNOLDS, FLICKR                                     motion model. Occasionally two males   care lasts over a month, so that’s a lot of
     top feathers rise to the occasion, making                                                                     will spar, as females and young jakes cir-  parental effort!
     their heads fan-shaped and tripling their                                                                     cle around and rubberneck the proceed-
     size. They cock their heads forward and   heart. Some cold wet springs that lack                              ings. The snap of their wings resonates
     back and dive around each prospective   bugs will leave them sitting on the racks                             like high-heeled stilettos on a wooden
     mate, hoping to be her chosen one before   like a gloomy wet jacket hung in the hall,                         floor—tango. Most fights are fleeting, the
     they move to their nesting grounds just   or huddled tight in their gourd. They will                          underdog recognizing he is out-matched
     north of our border with Canada. Their   take insects only on the wing and if con-                            and backing down. But at times these
     gyrations are not only mesmerizing to   ditions persist some will starve.                                     duels can end tragically.
     their own species but to anyone with   Speaking of canaries, our State’s                                         By the end of March the Maurice
     time and a soul to appreciate their court-  avian symbol, the American goldfinch,                             River will be enlivened by the urgent,
     ship.                                shows up in the yard each day with a bit                                 high-pitched, persistent whistles of
        Snow geese who have assembled in   more yellow in its plumage. These birds                                 osprey looking for mates and laying
     fields and marshes will soon make their   hang out in a small flock, jockeying for                            claim to their nesting sites. Should
     migratory exodus, leaving like snow lift-  position on the feeder. They work the   A brown flash with creamy   another bird be using “their digs,” aerial
     ing from the ground—a natural glitter   sweetgum’s round pods to excavate the   borders, the mourning         dog fights can ensue. Come April a few
     dispersing upward.                   seeds, clinging to a branch above the tiny                               males are still scanning the skies and
        Soon the early arrivals of purple mar-  medieval-looking spiked flail that dangles   cloak—one of our earliest   calling incessantly for a late-arriving
     tins will come to our gourd racks. And   beneath them. We used to call them   butterflies—will pump and       female. It is a hard situation to observe
     should their nesting  hollows not be hung   gumballs. The pods have begun to drop                             and possibly even worse to listen to.
     in anticipation of their arrival, the males   to the ground and challenge my footing.   amble past on a wooded   The endless vocalizations of a love-sick
     will chatter and scold us indignantly   Funny, I don’t remember in my youth   trail and disappear like a      osprey are both heartbreaking and mad-
     for our absent-minded neglect. Their   being thrown off-kilter by them. Like the                              dening. Eventually things get sorted out
     panache is like canaries painted midnight   seasons, things change.              magician’s coin.             and the male will commence to bring
     purple, with a chatter that warms your   Many early nesters like the bald eagles                              nesting materials as a prize for his long-
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