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March 16th, 2009 - Turning the Corner

Well, hey - we're still trying to put the excitement of "Pi Day" behind us here, hope you had a good one and spent the day memorizing lots of digits. One distraction here has been that our weather is actually showing hope for a turn into spring, or as we say around here, "Turning the Corner..."
We will probably do a couple 360's before we actually make it around the corner, as March is the snowiest month in Minnesota. But you can tell that March's minus five degree windchills are not the same as say, January's minus five degree windchills. The sun's warmer, the breeze is milder, and every one's got a little spring in their step, probably because of all that dog crap hiding in the snow all winter is now everywhere.

I have noticed a few Spring Phenological signs in the neighborhood this week:

1. The Dairy Queen is open! (Major indicator) Haven't had my first HFS (Hot-Fudge Sundae) or Blizzard yet to initiate it  though.

2. People out shovelling or chopping ice in their short-sleeve shirts.  Most everyone feels a compulsion to go out and lean on a shovel handle showing off their porcelain white arms while catching up with the neighbors and getting some run-off water flowing in the proper direction off of their sidewalk. It's kind of one of the "wash-line-rumor-mill" rites of Spring: 
"Oh say, did ya hear that big boom dere last night, eh... whaddaya think that was now...?" 
"Oh Cripes yah, it darn near shook da house down, scairt the dog so's he woont come out from under da sofa. Geez, damn kids prolly."
"Welp, better git dis water movin before the car freezes back in, hey...?!"
"Yah, heh. Whycha come on over fer a beer later."
"Yah, all right."

3. I saw a sign on a gas station that read, "HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY MARGIE!  WHAT GLOBAL WARMING, THAT'S JUST MARGIE'S CAKE!"
So maybe it's all Margie's fault and we're just in a temporary warm-up.

4. Heard, then saw a number of RWBB's (red-winged blackbirds, "telephone birds" we call them, as they sound like an old-fashioned phone ringing) both in our neighborhood and by Springbrook Nature Center. When the RWBB's come back, "It's on."

5. Then Hap Dog and I were walking at the lagoon last Wednesday and saw a couple crows flying loops and making a loud ruckus (like there's any other kind.) I was wondering why there weren't any pigeons on the wire by the bike path, and then as we got down by the "old pump," I saw a young red-tailed hawk perched in the tall tree near there.

Beautiful bird. You can tell the Red-tails, because for one; they are one of the few raptors with a red tail. Pretty straightforward. The rest of the bird may be pretty sundry depending on the age, morph, and "variation within species" (key phrase for naturalists; means "I dunno, they just look different.) But the real telling-factor is the "belly-band" of mottled, spotted, or sometimes almost opaque-looking stripe of feather pigments in the middle of their under-carriage. 
The ice was still good, so we walked as close as we could and checked him out before he flew to the other side of the creek, and then followed him over there for more hassling before he said that's enough and flew to the neighborhood trees for a respite. Poor guy. If it isn't the crows, other raptors, or just plain intrusive world of noise, activity and pollution, there's got to be some boob with a dog and a long lens following him around when he's trying to find a bite.

How can you not, though. The first word that comes into my mind when I see them is "regal." Maybe it's anthropomorphizing as we are wont to do, but these birds do seem to hold their heads high, fly with grace, and command an air of respect, more than your average little brown bird.
I'm so glad we have the chance to see them at least fairly closely in our own neighborhood.
Happy Spring. We're turning the corner. Billion points of light. I'm a believer...

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