Monday, April 18, 2005

Spring green, and ruby crowned kinglets

I noticed the first bright yellow-green aspen leaves emerging from buds this morning on a few trees. Although the catkins (flowers), which resemble gray caterpillars, are out in full force, most aspens are not leafing out yet and usually do not until the beginning of May. Apparently a few scattered stands of aspen clones have it in their genes to leaf out earlier than the rest. This has been a warm April, with temperatures a few days in the 70's. While the probability of frost is still all but certain, and a snowstorm would not be out of the question, the chances of that happening are diminishing.

I have a new bird to add to the list of those species I have observed here at Sand Creek. It has probably been here before, but for some reason I had just not identified it. The bird, aptly named ruby crowned kinglet, is a tiny species, mostly grayish olive and identified by a prominent eye ring, light wing bars, and although it is difficult to see, a jewel of ruby red feathers on the head of the male. The song is distinctive, a loud melodic, precisely phrased series of notes. It is the song that first made me notice these small birds flitting around in the balsams. I stood there for five minutes with the binoculars, trying to catch a glimpse of one, yet I saw nothing but chickadees. I was beginning to think maybe the chickadees had a song I hadn't heard of, when I finally spotted a kinglet in an aspen.

What amazing discoveries are there to be made, right before our eyes, when we take the time to quietly observe!

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