Friday, March 26, 2010

Little Voice of Spring

Two afternoons ago I heard Hyla Crucifer, the spring peeper, calling from some marshy grass on the fringes of the Steeplechase course at Percy Warner Park. I have heard them call to spring since I was a child. I have lived near swamps and rivers and marshes, yet I have never seen a peeper. He is a will-of-the wisp. He will sing until one gets a foot too close, and then there will be only the call of the red-wing blackbird, another haunter of pond edges and river-bottoms.

The naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch said this of Hyla Crucifer. "- the peeper seems to realize, rather better than we, the significance of his resurrection, and I wonder if there is any other phenomenon in the heavens above or in the earth beneath which so simply and so definitely announces that life is resurgent again". ( "The Twelve Seasons". 1949. Joseph Wood Krutch.)

On the same afternoon I heard two Barred Owls calling to each other. Unlike peepers, they are not shy. They sit their ground, or rather their branch, not much bothered by beagles or women in sunhats. They watch and no matter if you are in front, behind, or beside, their head is always turned your way. I have seen them wrestling snakes on a stone wall, carrying off squirrels, and killing a hapless Red-bellied woodpecker.

Any day now the meadowlarks will sing in the fields near the Steeplechase stables. "Spring is sweet to me," they say. It is sweet to all of us. How I wish it was not such a laggard.

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