When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.
–Wendell Berry, “Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer”
With March arriving, birds on the farm begin to rise. Many lived here all winter, of course, flocking to our feeders in the ice and snow. I keep a list of the ones I see: Nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and slate-eyed juncos. Goldfinches and house finches. Hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, common flickers. Bossy blue jays. Vibrant cardinals. Others don’t come to the feeders but fly around the farm nevertheless. Red-tailed hawks soaring above the frozen fields. The clutch of crows perched in the spruce trees croaking back and forth to each other each morning. The great horned owl hoot-hoot-hooting somewhere overhead in the cold, still night.
Just last week, I discovered an eastern screech owl had taken up residence in our barn’s loft sometime this winter. I noticed first that the floor was littered with these weird soft gray oblong masses: owl pellets, I realized. And where there are owl pellets, there must be an owl. So I searched up in the rafters, and there it was, perched high in the peak of the barn, eyeing me warily. I have been trying to attract owls to live on the farm for a while now, so I was happy to greet it.
These year-round residents are now joined by others. Last week, as I was beginning the greenhouse work, I saw the season’s first red-winged blackbird, right on cue. This morning I heard the eerie trumpeting of a sandhill crane and stepped outside just in time to see it drift low over the roof of the farmhouse and north toward the woods abutting the back of our property. We should be seeing robins soon, followed by bluebirds and orioles. And then my favorites, the tree swallows, which will fill the warm evening air, falling and rising above mid-summer fields.