“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.”
I’m always surprised when I see my first flock of robins returning north, or hear the first high-pitched trilling from a wet, marshy area, and then see the returned red-winged blackbirds making these calls. I know these things happen every year at this time; the natural world is really quite predictable. But even though I’ve experienced robins returning before, and have marked the turning of this season every year with the trill of the red-winged blackbird, I am still taken aback by these first signs of spring. I guess even snow-less winters like the one we’ve had make us yearn for renewal.
Would you like to see and hear your own red-winged blackbirds? All you need is a wet, marshy area. There’s a great spot near camp off of Red Schoolhouse Road, next to the Apothecary and the Ridge deli. If you’re in NYC, both Central Park and Prospect Park have plenty of soggy ground where red-winged blackbirds might be gathered. Stand on the edge of your own wetlands, maybe near a patch of Phragmites (those tall, tousled grasses that blow in the wind) and look and listen for the male red-wings, black with bright red markings on their ‘shoulders’. These males return before the females do in order to scout out, claim and protect a good territory for nest-building. After a while the female red-wings return and choose one male’s territory in which to build their nest. See for yourself if you can spot a female…here’s a hint: they’re not nearly as easy to see as the brightly marked males.