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On Nature's Trail

Ed Bigelow 

For many years the bluebird has been called the harbinger of spring.  Yet while it is true that he and the song sparrow are the first birds (except the English sparrow and the starling) whose song is heard in the spring, it is true also that the bluebirds are with us in small numbers all winter, moving only a short distance South of their nesting habitat.  Upon almost any mild day of the winter we may hear their soft, sweet warble if we will but go abroad into the fields and listen for it; but the warble comes with greater frequency as the spring advances, and by the middle of April the birds are in full song-if a series of two or three notes can be called a song.  About the first of April the bluebirds are searching for suitable nesting sites hollows in trees, deserted woodpeckers' holes and bird boxes.

Once the latter have moved in and found the place to their liking, they will return to the box year after year, and you may be sure of a permanent tenant.  Next to some of the hawks and owls the bluebirds are the first birds to commence nesting arrangements in the spring.  They raise two, and sometimes three, broods in a season, and their first litter of eggs is often laid as early as the latter part of March and seldom later than the middle of April.

Bluebirds are among our most useful birds, as they destroy large numbers of insects.  These, indeed, are their principal food, so the bluebirds can be accused of practically no injury to vegetation beyond the taking of a very few cherries and berries.

You understand brooks and their icy fringes!  Well, I don't, notwithstanding years of study and joy with them.  Now, talking about joy, let me tell you, fellows, I have never had any kind of nature apparatus that has given me more solid satisfaction than a good pair of rubber boots.  This, you know, is the day of coined words, and Scouts are fond of nicknames.  So let me be in fashion and tell you that you can coin a nickname from gum and boots and call them gumboo.

Now what can you do with gumboo?  Wade up the center of brooks, of course, where the water is not very deep, and carefully examine the ice formations on the stones and on the banks of the brook.  I used to think that I could view a brook bank from the mother bank and get the same effect as with the gumboo, but there are places where the best detail of interest and beauty is visible only from the center of the brook.  Some day I shall make a collection of photographs of one particular spot I know at various cold snaps, and I think I will get as much variety in scenery as I would if I had traveled all over the world.

But to come back to the gumboo.  They are good for the marshes in that transitional stage from winter to spring that everybody with a bit of spring blood in his veins enjoys along in March.  Then is to be found one of the greatest of puzzles-those floating islands of ice attached to slender, overhanging twigs.

On Nature's Trail In:


Signs of Wildlife In:

November - December
January - March







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Peer- Level Topic Links:
September ] October ] November ] December ] January ] February ] [ March ]

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On Nature's Trail ] Animal Tracks ] Birds in Winter ] Birds Nest Collections ] Nature Collections ] Signs in Jan-March ] Signs: Nov-Dec ] Trees in Winter ] Animals in Winter ] Winter Tree List ] Tree Photography ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.