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Today is July 21, 2019

Outdoors

Outdoor variety at winter’s end

By Tony Kinton

Outdoor variety at winter’s end

Winter has its own form of beauty and can be appreciated for such, but spring will interrupt this with color and new growth. Photo by Tony Kinton

Yogi Berra, that indubitable philosopher of professional baseball fame, is credited with a plethora of grand and generally humorous quotes. One that is often ascribed to him is, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” That quote takes various forms, the original of which is more likely a Danish proverb rather than a Yogi creation. Still, it fits the malapropisms common to this one-of-a-kind major leaguer, and it fits the intent of this column. Consequently, I will use it.

But should we get a March snowstorm or an April bout with iced-over tree limbs and treacherous roads, I defer again to Yogi as my primary method of defense: “I really didn’t say everything I said.” My prediction? Winter has come to an end!

This is March, a potentially glorious turning point that marks the close of cold and the opening of warm. Spring, if not here, is certainly just down the path a short distance, and with it comes a morphing of great interest 
to the outdoors type. Consider the following. 

Grass will soon acquire a green tint. It has been drab and burdened by the chill for some time now, burrowed in hiding with little to show except its dormant repose. But now there is new life, in its infancy to be sure, but new life just the same. It will be on display directly. And trees as well as grass will show signs of rejuvenation, faint at first but flourishing in days to come. 

One characteristic of regal oaks that has always fascinated me is that these for the longest time can appear void of life, skeletal fingers stretching upward as if seeking relief from above. Giving up would seem an easy thing to do. But they don’t give up. They persevere. They stand in anticipation. And they are eventually rewarded, their limbs producing buds which produce leaves which bring a form of resurrection. The oaks once again live, flourish. Squirrels and deer and turkeys and all manner of wildlife will feed from those same structures that only weeks earlier were languid.

And oh the blooms that will soon be evident. Dogwoods early on. Redbuds. The tulip poplar. Blackberries will leaf out and blossom, giving rise to plump fruit that makes the most alluring dessert known to humanity, this in the form of blackberry dumplings. And be careful of those little briars on the blackberry vines. This protective device can be particularly nasty but not so nasty as to preclude the collection of the main ingredient for those blackberry dumplings!

Also available this month to adventure seekers is the wild turkey. Whether that sojourner is hunting or just absorbing, he or she is in for a glorious experience. Male turkeys are gobbling, pirouetting, displaying and stiff-leg strutting in an effort to gain approval from reticent females. The males’ iridescence and splayed fan and dragging beard and gaudy head are pure marvels, the essence of wildness. From both an aural and visual perspective, these birds reign as champions. Grandiose, this encounter is.

Crappie will also be stirring about this month. Somewhere in the shallows or holding near the first drop on the offside of those shallows, they will be making preparations for the spawn. A jig or minnow judiciously dangled in their midst could be the beginnings of the sweetest fillets that can be had. Fried a light brown, they are superb.

And keep an eye on the bird feeders. These should be extremely active. There will be the Cardinal, the male dressed in his finest red tuxedo. His female counterpart will be less obtrusive in appearance but elegant just the same. The Black-Capped Chickadee will dart about and flit from feeder to limb to feeder again. This one has mastered the art of simple tools around my feeders. There is a Crete myrtle between the feeders. The diminutive Black Caps have taken to gathering a sunflower seed from the feeder and taking it to a resting place in the Crete myrtle. From that station they place the seed in a suitable spot and hammer away at the shell to reach the seed. They always succeed.

The handsome House Finch is there as well. A fat Mourning Dove shuffles around beneath to retrieve kernels that have been bumped from the feeders by raucous behavior exemplified by those birds possessing fewer social graces. 

Then there is the Gold Finch. A prodigious collection gathers at my feeders each winter, and even in their most basic garb they are striking. I stand and watch them often, always in awe of their beauty and antics. They are spectacular in their cold-weather attire, but coloration is more chartreuse at such times. Let spring age a bit, however, and they leave on their migration with markings that exemplify their name – Gold Finch.

My favorite among all feathered guests is the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Only a few come and their stay is brief. But spring is complete when they do. Multicolored, robust, alluring – these capture my full attention. Watch closely for them; they tend to move on quickly.

Winter is gone; spring is here. My hope is that this prediction is solid, immediate. But if not, the changes spring brings will get here. Like those massive oaks, we must be patient, persistent. 

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. His newest book is “Rambling Through Pleasant Memories.” Order from Amazon.com or Kinton’s website: www.tonykinton.com.

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