Saturday, May 3, 2008

May Day

May Day…probably has more holidays than any other day of the year. While it is also known as International Worker’s Day (or Labor Day), I rather like the older notion; the celebration of Beltane which traditionally meant the livestock were moved to valley pastures and mountain grazing lands. While I particularly dislike that today’s ranchers have some sort of special dispensation to graze livestock on our public lands without accompanying herdsmen (ever find cattle on the deck of your very remote, off-grid, cabin-in-the-woods?), I do like the European ways of doing things that are so much more in harmony with nature; herdsmen and dogs moving with livestock keep them from harm and move them away from homesteads…and also remove the ‘need’ for laying out poison for predators that might harass untended livestock.

May Day is the celebration of Spring. I enjoy a good bonfire…and who wouldn’t enjoy dancing around a May Pole? As a child, I remember making posies by pushing a small handful of tiny flowers and pretty greens through the center of paper doilies and offering them to the various moms in the neighborhood; we made them in school for our own mothers, too. While I’ve not actually danced around a May Pole, I have danced a Medicine Wheel to the hypnotic beat of drumming at a celebration of Solstice. The idea that we are connected to the earth and her seasons is comforting to me; nature is my church. Perhaps I am a pagan at heart.

This past weekend, the last day or two of April, I heard my first Hummingbird of the season and put up feeders outside my kitchen window. It took a day or two, perhaps because I’m away at work all day, but I’ve now seen a small, green hummer with ruby-red throat feeding at my window. He’s got a dark head; it took a few visits to see that his deep-scarlet throat is a different color. I will have to watch him when he becomes more accustomed to my presence to see if he’s got a white collar. I’ll get photos later, but I’m fairly certain I have a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. [Addendum: not likely...was probably a Broad-tailed hummer.]

Yesterday, as I returned from work, dropping my bags and glancing out the window, I saw yet another new bird! He patiently allowed me a couple very fast photographs, perhaps another time I’ll get them in focus…and from outside those old double-paned windows. I have never seen a Black-headed Grosbeak before! Fun Fact: this is one of the few birds that eat Monarch Butterflies, whose diet of milkweed produces an accumulation of noxious chemicals that most birds are unable to tolerate.

I notice this bird is marked a lot like the Rose-breasted Grosbeak...and then read that they sometimes interbred. I wonder if this bird is a hybrid. Watching him I suddenly discovered there were two! I'll get better photos soon.

How is it we can live somewhere for years and it’s not until we actively look for them, that we even see the variety of birds in our own backyard? So far, I’ve seen over 44 different species in mine…but only in the last two months! I want to keep my eyes open.

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