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A message from the birds

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
Feb. 27, 2004
There comes a time late in winter, before spring shows even its earliest signs, when we know that those days when life in nature starts all over again will soon arrive. One day it will rain and the blue jays will hop about in the trees and sing, ignoring the downpour.
Yes, their song is harsh and lacking melody, but their message is clear. They sense spring as an inevitability even though all that has changed since the last rain has been the length of the days, minutes of daylight having been added with the passing dreary weeks of winter.
On this day the jays will practice the same excited cries one hears from them during a July rain shower. In mid-summer we see their calls as a celebration of cooling off and getting a fresh drink. Children may dance to their tree music, splashing back and forth in puddles on the ground. But the first of the birds' prophetic clamoring each year happens while cold, damp February days seem endless and spring exists only in one's memory.
Holed up
One day last week, barely past mid-February, I was inside my house during a steady rain that had wet most everything and everyone outside. And although I am a great fan of rain, there is a certain confining effect it has on all of us and I was feeling restricted by the rain that day.
Quite suddenly, I became aware of blue jays calling happily in the trees outside my window. I paid attention. They were chattering just as if the shower had been the first following a month-long August drought. Yet the rain, having made a pest of itself of late, was falling steadily, its heavy drops spattering on bare limbs from which the leaves of spring would soon emerge.
I replayed a wild turkey's gobble in my entranced mind, it's raspy cry standing out above the din of squealing wood ducks, hammering woodpeckers and the melodies of a thousand song birds.
I saw partially submerged grass blades shifting to and fro in shallows flooded by spring rains as bedding crappie stirred their chosen spot. Red winged blackbirds serenaded nearby with their loud, twittering notes.
Insects, both friend and foe, crawled and flew and jumped about in my imagined scenes.
Another burst of raucous fussing from the frolicking jays snapped me back to the reality of a cold, wet winter day. I peeked outside and thanked the pesky birds for taking me briefly to the days that lie ahead.