Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bluebirds Return

The weather continues its pattern of sunny days alternating with snowy ones, which frustrates people who think that the arrival of spring means that the snow should stop - these are almost always people who grew up where there is a real spring, not in Montana. It doesn't seem to faze the birds or plants, though. The first bluebird has returned to the stretch of Bostwick Road that always seems to host a pair. We have mountain bluebirds here, which are solid blue without the reddish patches of the western bluebird; when they dart across the road, they are a startling flash of sky. House finches are showing up on my crabapple tree during snow flurries; they live in Montana year-round, but we only see them in the winter if we put out a bird feeder. The house finches are easy to tell from other finches and wrens because the males have red heads; the red color comes from the quality of the food during molt, so the intensity of the color gives females a pretty good idea of the male's ability to find food for nestlings. In the garden, the pussy willow catkins are just starting to fluff out; in another week or two, they will be decorative enough that I will be faced with the decision of whether to leave them in place to grow more next year (the plant is pretty young) or cut them for the house.

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