Indigo Buntings and the Flower Moon

Reading and photographs by Robert Towe

This week I’m posting a few pieces from my nature journal in recent weeks---fleeting essences of springtime in the mountains.

March 29: All day, a strong south-wind blows in, smelling of rain. Deep in the woods, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker drums his mating song on a dead and hollow poplar. I catch the tangy scent of pine smoke on the cloudy wind---is it a wildfire somewhere deep in the mountains? In twilight haze, Venus glimmers gold through empty trees.

April 1: Late afternoon, the first evening of a new April. The lowering sun splinters through pine needles and pink plum blossoms. Shadows wash the quiet room. Enough warmth has come for a few hours of open windows. It’s a joy, listening to the waking spring land, the air ringing jubilant with falling waters, the wild sweet music of whitethroat sparrows, cardinals and crows. Later: twilight grows cooler, shades of violet deepen into purples, the soft cooing of doves. I close the windows, put on a wool sweater for the evening.

April 12: Windy morning rain. Puddles ripple with bubbles and silver water rings. The circling waters of the whole planet, falling, return to us. I stand under the porch roof, waking, drinking fresh-ground coffee, listening to soft rain on young leaves. I breathe the rich perfumes of the ancient greening land, give thanks to the Creator for another spring.

April 16: “Dogwood Winter”---a brief cold spell, every late spring. Under the bluest skies all year, on gnarled black limbs Dogwood blossoms dance in the cold Canadian wind, dappling the land with flowers and light. I relish the wild chorus of a hundred birds singing, spinning secret nests, circles of dead straw, spun to cradle unborn life, a few delicate speckled eggs. The songs will go on.

April 18: Spring morning thunder rumbles the dark mountains. In the curtains of morning rain, cool fragrant wind stirs, apple petals flutter to the ground. Above the garden a few doves huddle and mourn on a dead tree limb.

April 23: Suddenly Indigo Buntings have returned, overnight, from six months in jungles near the Equator. They were not here yesterday. Deep blue finches, “scraps of sky with wings”. Unlike most birds, they sing far beyond nesting and fledgling, into the fugitive wings of early autumn. Then they fly, leaving a chilled silence behind. This little bird of field and forest edges sings exuberantly from the highest twig, dawn til dark, April to October, "sweet-sweet, which-which? please-please?"

April 25: I walk out into cool windy darkness. Jupiter gleams high in the west, near the swollen crescent of waxing moon. For untold centuries this is the ‘Flower Moon’ of native tribes, who measured the natural year by the seasonal moons. The winter hunter, Orion, with his dogs Sirius and Procyon, tracks down the western sky into the trees. Now the Great Bear circles far above the pole star. Gold Arcturus, the Herdsman, carries his flickering lamp up the high spring pastures of the eastern sky.