Some days are special. Spring, is special, its just that some days of spring are more so than others. Last week I began to write, but never finished, about getting into the garden to plant some of the Angel Trumpets I had ordered. That day had been as spectacular as a fine spring day can be, blue, clear, and a perfect temperature. The sun felt good, enveloping and soothing, and so equally did the feel of the warm dirt in my hands as I pushed the new baby plants into their new homes. The surrounding cacophony of bird calls telling the urgency of the underway nesting season, all blended together in that background noise kind of way that makes me feel happy every year when the time comes, and says spring is here, and another winter has gone bye bye..
Some Red Shoulder Hawks in particular, were making a lot of noise pretty close by to where I was planting and I caught an occasional glance of one flying from tree to tree down below the house in the swamp, presumedly, searching for frogs. It was the next day or so that we were cooking our weekend breakfast outside on the patio when we heard one, close by, and I just happened to see one jump and glide down from an oak tree less than fifty feet from our house. Simultaneously another one flew up and silently landed in the pile of what we had previously thought to be a squirrel nest, a very smallish gathering of twigs loosely gathered together in the crotch of this very tall old oak.
There is no telling exactly how long they have been sitting on eggs, cause we just didn’t happen to look up the day they moved in, but we have heard them close by for quite some time, so maybe hatching will be soon. I have heard the changing of the guard when they shift up who sits on the eggs and who hunts for the next hours. We have set up the spotting scope and seen feathers of the sitting parent to be fluffed by the wind. I have also seen a sharp eye cast my way when I looked thru the scope. It s amazing how they know they are being watched.
Years ago now, college days, we rented a small house on a farm a few miles from town. It was close to a creek and watery places and it too was perfect for Red Shoulder habitat. We searched for a pair that we had seen repeatedly flying into the woods behind our house and finally found the nest, this one a much more respectable one in size, in a nice stout pine.
My husband, who had learned falconry while in the army and had flown Hawks and Falcons before, thought this would be a great photography project and also a potential opportunity to take an eyass for me to train. So we rented scaffolding pieces to get us up there, well not exactly us, more like him, and began a march up and down the rather steep hill behind the house, carrying one piece at a time. It was somewhere like sixteen or twenty large and heavy pieces that we trudged up there and erected to get to the height of the nest. Remember we were in college then. The birds seemed oblivious and nonplussed by our actions and hatched and raised those chicks and Mark photographed them frequently.
Eventually we did trap one of the young birds after they had flown the nest and had learned to hunt a bit for themselves, and it became my first hawk to train. I had watched Mark fly and train several birds before and he walked me through the process of the training with this bird. Once manned, it flew well to the creance, or tether line, to my outstretched glove but once on loose flying I lost the bird over its preference to frogs than the beef liver morsels I offered in return for it returning to my glove. The birds remained on the edge of the woods by our little house for the summer hunting the snakes and frogs that flourished in the warm water puddles that stayed in the pasture’s low areas. The Red Shoulder Hawk is a lovely bird but not the best candidate for a hunting bird, unless you like frogs and snakes too, which I don't care for so it was okay that the bird left me. It was a good lesson though, and I learned a lot and got a lot of material to do paintings of this bird.
But about that other part of spring…those kind of days that aren't so wonderful. The days that the oak trees begin to break open all of their flowers and spray volumes and volumes of yellow dust into the air, yes those, are the ones that are special. For some reason everything that flowers, be it tree, shrub, or whatever are doing so at a level I have never seen but this week’s pollen explosion was crazy.
With the oak flowers opening the pollen began to drift, gently falling into every crevasse, onto every surface, and just hanging in suspension in the air making it look like the atmosphere was a sickly green soup. For the beginning of the week l was ok, and in fact had flippantly remarked how that stuff never bothered me, allergy wise, and then, on Tuesday afternoon I began to cough at the tickle that felt like a small moth in the back of my throat. By that evening my throat was raw and on fire from coughing, but the next morning was the bomb.
I woke to sinus invasion from hell. The next forty eight hours I spent in a fetal horizontal position in delirious semi sleep trying to avoid the pain of moving my head at all. My sinuses were pressing and ached, but the rods of steel that ran thru my skull were throbbing. One rod ran from just the top of my face thru my face to the back of my skull just at the base of it. The other rod ran side to side thru my temples. I lay there in a semi coma with visual hallucinations teasing me about my reality, and the sound track of the music from the play Cabaret running thru that. I wondered when it would end and how.
Two days are gone that I will never see again, and just from light and fluffy tree dust. I am better, thankfully, but still have sniffles and occasional coughs, and best, the steel rods are smaller. A nice rain last night washed the pollen from the air and off the leaves and the air was clean again, albeit a few days too late for me. Today is another cleaner air day and it is beautiful and back into the garden I will head to plant more stuff, after I wipe off tables and chairs, sweep the porches, and hose down the carport of the vile yellow stuff.
And that’s spring.