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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Winging Into Spring

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, and the time of the singing of birds has come…”
Song of Solomon 2: 11-12

In her 1962 bestseller, Silent Spring, gifted writer, biologist, and early environmentalist Rachel Carson foretold of a world without birds and other wonders of nature as a result of the widespread use of pesticides, specifically DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane). She claimed that these chemicals would cause the deaths of untold numbers of animals, especially birds, and even humans.

Her writing engendered much discussion and study of the use of biocides and their potentially lethal effects. As a result, in May, 1963, President John F. Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee determined that pesticides should be used to maintain the quality of our food and health, but not indiscriminately, in which case it might jeopardize the balance of nature. Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner, the committee chairman, stated that their routine usage posed “potentially a much greater hazard” than the deleterious effects of uncontrolled radiation.

We owe a great debt to Miss Carson for alerting the country to the danger of this potential catastrophe before it occurred. Her efforts ultimately led, in 1972, to the ban of the usage of DDT in the U.S.

The idea of a spring without the familiar sound of birdcalls is inconceivable. Along with the blossoming of crocuses, tulips, and hyacinths, the sight and sound of birds is part and parcel of the season. They portend the end of a long winter and promise of beautiful weather days ahead. Spring just wouldn’t be spring without the birds.

We derive such pleasure from our feathered friends. No matter where we are outdoors, they appear in wide variety, brightly-colored, active, and entertaining to watch. They sing their hearts out for us, providing delightful music to enjoy. Bird watching is said to be the most rapidly growing hobby in America today, with almost 70 million individuals avid backyard birders.

Some species of birds are prevalent in all areas of the country, while others are specific to certain regions. Each in its own way enriches our lives. We can easily invite these feathered songsters into our world through the simple provision of birdhouses, birdbaths, and bird feeders with seed blends, suet, table scraps, or bread crumbs. Feeders and houses come in many types, including those placed on poles, hanging from tree branches, and attaching to the outside of windows. All allow for close-up observation of the lovely winged creatures.

Once we begin to pay attention, it’s not long before we come to recognize certain birds by their distinctive markings, habits, and individual songs. The soft gray Mourning Dove is known for its haunting four or five note cooing sound. The Robin Redbreast is perhaps the best recognized of all North American birds, with its characteristic gait of hop, skip and head-tilt and “cheerily carol.” Then there is the Song Sparrow, aptly named for its unique trilling call, and the unmistakable Woodpecker, with its red head, solid black back, white underfeathers and familiar rat-tat-tapping of its beak on tree trunks. And let’s not forget the brilliant scarlet-colored Cardinal, better known as the Redbird, with its joyful “purty! purty! purty!”

The world is full of intriguing delights–some, like the birds, quite literally right outside the window. It’s Spring! The time of the singing of birds has come once again.

Take a look and a listen. Purty! purty! purty!

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