May Days

ImageFinally, we have had a string of warm, sunny days so I do believe spring is really here. This has been the longest delayed spring weather for many years.

May has always been my favorite month. It is when the grass turns a lush green, the trees leaf out in lime and chartreuse and shrubs bloom gloriously and profusely. Our Korean Spice Viburnum (V. carlesii) is perfuming our yard right now and I am in heaven! It is definitely one of my favorite shrubs for that reason.

Everyone loves Korean Spice Bush (Viburnum carlesii)

Everyone loves Korean Spice Bush (Viburnum carlesii)

The ruby-throated hummingbirds love it as well. I saw my first hummer on the 10th, right on schedule! Already we have a courting pair. I love watching the male’s courting U-shaped flight – trying to impress the object of his devotion by flashing his gorgeous ruby throat patch. Poor guy, she always seems a bit bored!

The hardest part of living in a cold climate is that for so much of the year we are cut off from the outdoors. Now, the warmer weather allows the windows to be open and the house is refreshed with wafting breezes.  From inside, I can hear the birds singing and to the west side,  the waterfall, cascading over the stones – the myriad of falls create a white noise as background to birdsong.

Musical accompaniment

Musical accompaniment


Oh and the birds! With the arrival of each new migrant, I rejoice! I send them a greeting of thanksgiving for their safe return, may they (and seven generations) be fruitful here.  May is peak warbler migration, my favorite of songbirds. Common yellowthroat, chestnut-sided, black-throated blue, yellow, black and white and I’m sure one or two others that I haven’t acknowledged yet, have serenaded my walks these past few days. Click the links to hear their songs – ethereal!

This morning I spied three pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks and a spectacular indigo bunting, its beautiful blue plumage like a piece of sky fallen to rest in the tree tops.

Indigo Bunting  (Rob Curtis/VIREO Nat'l Audubon Society)

Indigo Bunting
(Rob Curtis/VIREO Nat’l Audubon Society)

A song sparrow and a pair of cardinals have marked territories out front, I suspect nest sites are located in the front hedge and Alberta spruce. A male chickadee taps the windows periodically all day long. My guess is he sees his reflection and thinks it is another rival male – I suspect this type of behavior is where the comment about poor reasoning, “bird-brain,” came from.

I sit outside as much as I can and we have our meals on the deck off the kitchen. In the warmer weather I consider it a sin to be inside, so either for work or leisure, this is where I am. The front porch is covered, so even if it rains, I can be out in the fresh air. Currently, the goldfinches are twittering away, crows call in the distance, chickadees call “phee-bee” to one another, while a peewee voices its raspy name and a Carolina wren repeats over and over at the edge of the woods. Deeper within I hear the haunting, melodious notes of a veery.

The toads have started trilling their mating calls down at the river.

Mr. & Ms. Toad are ‘en flagrante delicto’ with productive results: lots of eggs

They often will lay their long strings of noodle-like eggs in shallow pools that are doomed to dry up before the tadpoles can mature. When able, I try to move them to deeper pools. The ones I miss feed the raccoons and other predators.

Adult red-spotted efts considering lunch options at the toad egg buffet

Adult red-spotted efts considering lunch options at the toad egg buffet

The mortality rate of young animals in nature astounds me. I guess most species lower on the food chain compensate by creating abundantly. Like plants that create thousands of seeds, insects and amphibians lay hundreds, if not thousands, of eggs. Reasoning that everything sooner or later becomes food helps me feel less badly about their early demise. In reality, it is simply a transfer of energy; the tadpole becomes part of the crow or raccoon in the ‘great circle of life.’ I am honored to bear witness to it all, a privilege in so many ways.

About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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29 Responses to May Days

  1. This is truly a Paradise!… Beautiful. 🙂

  2. mk says:

    I hope you’re going to publish all of your wonderful essays in an illustrated book. I’d buy it, that’s for sure. It’s like reading a naturalist travelogue. Oh wait, you ARE a naturalist, and a real one at that.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks for the awesome compliment! 🙂
      When do you leave for Spain?

      • mk says:

        Just arrived in Madrid yesterday. I’d comment on so many of these pictures but all I have is a tiny Kindle tablet, and I am typing with a little finger. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Can’t post until I return, but I can read and keep up with my blog family!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Have a wonderful time – I’ll think of you taking in the sights. Que te la vaya bien!

  3. Iana Roy says:

    It’s quite relaxing reading you Eliza. I can almost hear the waterfall 🙂

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Iana, it is pretty soothing. It was the waterfall that sold me on this property. It is great to have a yard with a natural waterfall in it!

  4. Robbie says:

    lovely post + enjoyed all the pictures of the little “buddies ” you have befriended on your 7 acres. What a wonderful place to be + you are so right about how much we all appreciate all this outdoor music after a long winter:-) I just love being outside and watching them all do their “stuff” it is a natural wonderland:-)

  5. seedbud says:

    Great post. Beautiful pictures. So glad Spring has finally come your way!! Very Best, Seedbud

  6. I love the way you always paint such vivid and colorful visuals (and target the other senses, too) with your words, Eliza. Your posts are always a joy to read. The photos an added bonus! 🙂

  7. ladyfi says:

    Gorgeous words and lovely shots. You’ve captured the joy of spring.

  8. dorannrule says:

    Stunning photographs Eliza. And I so enjoyed following you through the joys of May. 🙂

  9. Laughed at you comment about the bored female hummingbird:) How many women can relate- having been subjected to counterpart human displays of flirtation ? 🙂 I love the picture of the indigo bunting and how you said is looked like a piece of sky – so lovely.

  10. Emily says:

    you have such a wonderful blog! I’m so enjoying the spring chorus of sounds as well! I forgot how much I love sleeping near an open window and hearing nature sounds at night and early morning. the warblers in my woods are proving a challenge for me to identify, though. i encountered a pair of common yellowthroats exploring around a pond, but the ones that sing above my cabin are so hard to identify by song alone!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Emily, thanks so much for your visit. It sounds like we share a love of nature. Have you tried for identifying bird songs? It is challenging with warbler calls, many are similar. Years ago, I wrote out phonetically what they sounded like to me on an index card and would carry it with me to help learn them. I still get them mixed up sometimes, but I do recognize a few. Keep at it!

  11. twoscamps says:

    Oh such beauty there is in this world. Thanks for such a lovely post. This morning I arose early just to hear birdsong. The moon was an added bonus. What a wonderful to end this day reading your blog. Thanks Eliza…. Maureen 🙂

    • Eliza Waters says:

      I love laying in bed and hearing the birds start singing. It always makes me smile. I’m grateful for their morning cheer. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  12. Sharon K. says:

    Just a wonderful post, Eliza. I love the waterfall on your property and the mating frogs and your narrative………thanks for taking us along!

    My Korean spice viburnum didn’t survive the winter…..I’ll live vicariously through yours.

    The long hard winter has made the spring especially joyful. Every new event is cause for celebration!

    Just wonderful!!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Sorry to hear about your Korean spice, what a sad loss! What zone are you? They range from 4 to 7. Maybe you could replant and wrap it in burlap in the fall to protect it. It one of my favorites so I can imagine how you might feel to lose yours!

  13. What wonderful photos of the frogs and tadpoles! At one time there may have been sufficient abundance for individuals of the species to be lost, but with shrinking habitat, we need to give the little ones all of the help we can. We stop to move turtles off of the road, and I’m happy to hear you can move the frogs’ eggs and tadpoles to deeper water. Best wishes, WG

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Sadly, inexplicably, I found a large number of these tadpoles dead upon hatching. The water may have become too warm or perhaps the pool was infected in some way. There was heavy rain with flooding which washed away everything and refilled the pools. I’m hoping there will be more toads mating once again this week. I know this is nature’s way, but like you said, we can’t really afford to lose many more.

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