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The Sassy Sandpiper: Spring Preview

Sassy Sandpiper

The Sassy Sandpiper says we need a little spring – even if it’s a bit early.

By M.R. WILSON, Columnist, Tampa Bay Reporter

I officially declare this weekend (Feb. 20-21) the Spring Preview 2021, not without heartfelt concern for those suffering a brutal winter.

As a Floridian, I do realize the cool temperatures and unusually plentiful rainfall are harbingers of climate change, just as experts predicted.  But I must rejoice upon hearing two cardinals singing out territory in the pre-dawn hours. Mockingbirds join the chorus. Even the robins have shown up early. The backyard sunflower patches bring me hope and wonderment: There, in the spiraling arrangement of mini-flowers/premature seeds at the center, the Golden Ratio!

Amaryllis bulbs, Christmas gifts from my son, Luke, are in their full peach, tangerine-red and cream glory. Soon the flowers will close gracefully and the seed-producing phase of their lives will begin. The pods resemble giant praying mantis heads and split open to reveal black, tissue thin seeds packed tightly together. For successful sprouting, plant them standing up, not lying flat.

My morning ritual of coffee, cats, and contemplation is expanded to include the “Morning Bird Show.” The blue jay population is especially robust this year; they swoop in from on high to grab peanuts placed on the deck railing. Jays actually evaluate the peanuts, not choosing the first one, but sampling several before making a choice. Blue jays are raucous and competitive. Seeing a pair fly straight up, wings flailing at the other, might be amusing to me, but it’s serious business to the jays. Cardinals, sparrows, migrating warblers, mourning and Eurasian collared doves, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, grackles and Brewer’s blackbirds sample the feeder’s mix of sunflower, millet, and safflower seeds.

A canopy of old growth oaks arches over my backyard. Even leafless, they etch beautiful patterns against the sky. Buds are ripening; soon the young green leaves will emerge, oxygenating the air as they each act as a minute solar panel, producing food for the tree via photosynthesis.

Spring officially arrives with the vernal equinox, which falls at 5:37 a.m. EDT March 20. I am welcoming the season early, after a long and sad winter. (I recovered slowly from a severe ankle sprain early in December. On Jan. 6 I lost a dear old friend; that same day, an attack on the Capitol stunned the nation.)

My spirit needs soothing. I need to walk barefoot over the wide, open field at Raymond H. Neri Community Park, to revel in the practice of “earthing.”  I need “the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees.”  I need to gaze at monarch butterfly caterpillars munching on milkweed and get back soon to Willow Tree Nursery, as these caterpillars are very hungry, indeed.

Just as many folks felt the urge to deck their halls early for Christmas this past fall, so I think many must need to welcome Spring early, too, judging by the crowd at the nursery yesterday. All of the big, flowering milkweed plants were sold out.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF M.R. WILSON.

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