Don's Jersey Birding: In Search of Spring

Patches of Crocus displayed the official shade of spring.
Photo by Don Torino

By Don Torino

I know that the seasons have changed since time immemorial. Ever since the first blade of grass broke through the earth’s once barren soil and the first blue Robin eggs appeared in a bowl of twigs, dry grass and mud; Spring has come to New Jersey. But this year I really needed to see an actual sign that spring was on its way for myself. It had been a long winter for many of us in the Garden State. We are still trying to recover from the pounding we took at the hands of Hurricane Sandy. Many people are still trying to rebuild,  some of us are trying to bring back some sort of normalcy to our lives and many still are not sure what tomorrow has in store for them.

I began to think that right about now Springtime might be a real good idea and a nice gift for the people of New Jersey to receive as soon as possible. We are long overdue for an exquisite present, a gift that does not include a cleaning kit or new insulation and dry carpeting may be a novelty for the citizens of the Garden State at this point. It was with this thought in mind that I decided to go out and find out if Spring was out there somewhere, maybe lurking behind  the long dried out stems of last years milkweed  or perhaps hiding under some fallen Oaks that had been innocent victims of Sandy ‘s wrath. Spring must be out there If I just looked hard enough I might coax it out from its winter languor.

The return of the Red-Winged Blackbirds is always a welcome sight after a long winter.
Photo courtesy of Mike Malzone

The first  Meadowlands Red-Winged Blackbirds of Spring had been back for a few weeks now. Tthe “Spirit of the Marsh” is always a longed-for sight for me since childhood and especially welcome after a  tough winter. Their flashes of red and black felt even more special to see  this season. With all the devastation, loss and despair caused by Sandy, the Red-Wings did my heart good upon their cheerful homecoming. The call of the Killdeer could now be heard almost daily and their dance is center stage on all the open grassy places they could find - a sure sign that Spring would come again.

The Sounds of Spring were heard on my humble morning quest also. The Downy Woodpeckers drumming could be heard like a Ginger Baker solo throughout the woods. The Chickadees’ Fee-Beee call softly drifted among the trees to signal all was as it should be. The Song Sparrows  filled the meadows with music that could not help  make anyone smile lucky enough to hear them.

Skunk Cabbage had broken through the dreary winter forest floor.
Photo by Don Torino

The seemingly endless dreary winter russets and auburns of the forest floor began to exhibit the seasons renewal of life. Skunk Cabbage had begun to rise from the muddy winter earth and purple patches of Crocus displayed the official shade of Spring. Buds could now be seen on the Red Maples and even my Sandy worn backyard showed signs of life with tiny new leaves  on the honeysuckle and I even came across an egg casing of a Praying Mantis that was uncomplainingly waiting for springs arrival right  along with me.

Spring was out there after all, I found it, it was  just waiting. It will arrive like it has always has and hopefully always will. Whatever is happening in our lives  nature is always out there  for us when we are ready, it is the constant  in a world of uncertainty there to help heal and regenerate us when we are ready.

Rachel Carson once said, "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter." 

Praying Mantis egg casing waiting patiently for Spring.
Photo by Don Torino

Spring is a time for renewal, when all things are restored and nature breaths life back into the Earth. Many people in New Jersey could really use a good dose of Springtime right about now.


Don Torino is the President of Bergen County Audubon Society.

Don's Previous Birding Exclusives:


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