The River Is Floe-ing. Spring Is Coming.

Fort Jenkins Bridge Camera and binoculars bounce on my vest-padded chest as I leave footprints in week old snow.  I am headed to the river, to watch the ice floes flow.  Here at the bend, where West Pittston says hey to Pittston, the Susqhehanna is open, ice clinging in nooks and crannies.  A dozen Buffleheads ride the current toward Wilkes-Barre. Common Merganser and Mallard pairs gather to preen or forage where the river meets beach.  A lone Bufflehead floats mid-river, his glossy black-green head turning slowly right and left. Suddenly he tips tail to sky, and plunges beneath the icy water, with barely a ripple. I take slow, deep breaths, and smell what these birds know.

Down RiverWinter is leaving.  

Spring is coming.  

We have more mud than snow, more current than ice.  Insects are hatching, snails are moving, mussles are available, fish swim closer to the surface.  Life is on the move.  

The ice is floe-ing on.

Ice floe-ing

Spring Real Estate Boom: Garage Owner Declines Developer’s Offer

Carolina Wren nest1I swear I left the door open for just a couple of hours, as I tended the garden and the dogs.  Swoosh! at my head came a LBB, the bane of a birder’s existence while in the field.  Little Brown Bird is the go-to scientific identification for all sorts of sparrows and wrens that so closely resemble each other that only intense field scrutiny can resolve the question – what did I just see.  So on that afternoon, the swiftness of flight and my startled response to a bird flying back to front out of my garage left me with but one conclusion: I had an LBB trying to nest in my garage.  IN my garage.

I do not want the interior of my house or even my garage becoming a site of passerine development and I immediately searched the space in front of my headlights.  Yep.  There it was. Tucked high above my reach on a decrepit sheet of burlap, woven bits of leaf litter, moss, twigs created a shallow cup in the shelf corner.  Clue number one that Little Brown Bird was a wren.  

Clue number two was heard as I tended flower beds and dogs, garage door CLOSED, the next day:  teakettle-teakettle-teakettle. The chunky little brown bird darted into a nearby pine shrub, and perched with its tail held high. Clue number three.


Now I was certain that a Carolina Wren sought my garage shelf for development.  I kept the garage door closed, for the next day or two,surely long enough, I thought, to encourage this picky wren to seek other marvelous real estate in my wooded property.

Yesterday, I once again kept the garage open, as I tended the garden and the dogs.  Life was easy.  For everyone. Including my Little Brown Bird.

Suffice it to say, I removed the nest before this development had gotten too far.

May I suggest, LBB, my hanging fern?

Carolina Wren Wannabe Nest

Talented Tuesday: The Poet, Ira Sayles

Ira Sayles was born in Burrillville, Rhode Island on March 30, 1817.  He learned his letters by the age of three and as a child on the family’s Tioga County, Pennsylvania farm Ira spent every available moment reading.  After apprenticing with a Genesse Valley, New York cloth dresser for several years, Ira had saved enough money to continue his formal education at what became Alfred Academy, Alfred, New York. This voracious reader became a determined teacher and life-long learner, as well as an impassioned writer — of essays, articles, observations, and poetry.  There was no remedy for this urge to write; it was “constitutional, and eradication is death! You know, sir, ‘Poeta nascitur, – no fit.'”  [Poets are born, not made.]*

Ira Sayles, My Seventy-Fourth Birthday, (1891); Herrick Memorial Library Archives: Alfred, New York, accessed November 2012.Ira included poems in letters to friends and siblings; submitted a poem to be published with his daughter’s obituary; and while visiting his old stomping ground, had various selections published in the Alfred University paper.  Throughout his long career as principal, teacher, geologist, and  paleontologist, Ira kept up his art.  On March 30, 1891, Ira wrote My Seventy-Fourth Birthday, which he self-published in Washington, D.C. in between his work sessions with the United States Geological Survey.  The first stanza reads:

In the changeful days of Spring,

When the birds begin to sing,

When the sunshine and the storm

Chase each other, cold and warm,

When the lambs are shivering,

When the calves are quivering,

And anon the sunny ray

Brings a pleasure to the day,

From rosy morn to evening gray. —

At such a changeful time as this

My gentle mother’s loving kiss

Welcomed then her baby boy

To this varying Life’s alloy.  

*Ira Sayles, Letter to H. W. Longfellow, (1880); Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge.

The Easter Bunny

Happy Easter!

This illustration of the Easter Bunny was found in the postcard collection of my grandfather, Donald C. Minor, and is one of my very favorite Easter Greetings.

This white rabbit sets out to spread Easter joy bearing an egg-shaped knapsack full of violets, a Victorian symbol of faithfulness and love.  Dressed for hiking long distances, our rabbit pairs woolen breeches tailored for his tail with a white shirt and vest.  A Fedora and cravat sets off his jaunty suit.  In one hand paw he holds a walking stick, and in the other a German porcelain pipe, as if he just removed it from his mouth and is now set to burst into song:

I love to go a-wandering
along the mountain track.
And as I go I love to sing,
A knapsack on my back.

Lyrics:  The Happy Wanderer, camp song

Here Comes Peter Cottontail: Wordless Wednesday with vintage postcards

Here comes Peter Cottontail.
Hoppin Drivin’ down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppety Hurrying, hurrying,
Easter’s on its way.

Eight year old Ralph sent this card to his friend, my grandfather, Donald C. Minor, in April of 1908.  Driving one of those new-fangled automobiles, Peter Cottontail could spread his Easter joy at speeds of up to 45 mph.  This snazzy red roadster sports full bicycle fenders and oil lamp headlights; its simple design suggests that the artist is depicting the 1907 Model R, the precursor to the  Ford Model T.

I imagine Henry Ford enjoyed the implicit endorsement of such a greeting card–Fords are so affordable at $750 and easy to use even the Easter Bunny wants to drive an automobile!