I just came in from the patio where I was listening for a robin singing his twilight song. I have always loved the evening hours just before dark. It’s a magical time often referred to as the gloaming.
It is a quiet, almost dark time, when my family all sat outside for a few minutes at the end of a summer day, watching for the last glow of pink to fade from the sky and the first star to appear, and enjoying the changing from the heat of the day to the refreshment of an evening breeze, the good-night song of the robins, and our own good nights to each other, for when the gloaming slid into darkness, it was time for all of us children to be in bed.
Almost everyone knows the robin’s twilight song. It is a series of clear whistled phrases, often written as sounding like, “cheerily, cheery, cheerily, cheery.” They may vary the time and pauses between phrases but always sound very cheery. It is the song that tells us all that we should be happy because spring is here.
Robins occur all over the United States, but they do vary slightly. Eastern robins are usually darker colored and have greater amounts of white around their eyes and at the outer corners of their tails. Western robins are grayer and have almost no white on their tails.
The American robin belongs to the thrush family, and there are four recognized subspecies found in the United States, all of which are quite similar. The varied thrush of the northwestern forests is colored much like a robin in dark gray and rusty red, but it has two distinct rusty wingbars as well as grayish scalloping along the flanks, and the white supercilium of the robin is the same rusty red as the breast in the varied thrush.
Our robin was not singing this evening, but it is time he should be. Robins seem to sing when it is raining or about to rain. Perhaps they can feel the low pressure, but they do seem to always sing before it rains. This is not surprising since one of their favorite foods is the earthworm. Earthworms keep digging deeper and deeper into the ground as winter progresses and the earth freezes. In spring, they wait for rain to soften the earth before they come up to the surface. Thus a rainy evening forecasts good news to a robin. Soon their relished earthworms will surface and be available for food.
On Thursday, April 7, I watched a pair of mountain bluebirds carrying nesting material along the bank behind the Life Care Center of Evergreen, and when I came home on Friday, April 8, I was greeted by a pair of pygmy nuthatches, who were nesting in the smallest birdhouse in my yard.
Spring is early this year with the ice breakup on Evergreen Lake the earliest ever. In response to this, the osprey returned to the lake on Wednesday, April 6, about a week earlier than usual. On the same date, the pair of red-tailed hawks, which have nested somewhere near the lake for several years, were also seen courting at the lake. They are a light and dark phase pair, quite beautiful and will no doubt be nesting again in the area. If anyone actually locates the nest, please let me know as we would like to document it for the lake list.
The weather forecasters were predicting rain or snow for this morning, Sunday, April 10, but so far the sky is blue and no rain. I am disappointed as we need the moisture badly, not only to bring earthworms up for the robins, but because the threat of grass fires is still very high.
Early star drift, Pushkinia, is in full bloom in my yard and snowdrops are up. If we get some moisture, other spring bulbs will soon bloom as well. The next wildflowers to watch for are mountain candytuft, spring beauties, pasque flower and mountain ball cactus. The rest of April and May are the peak of spring with new things happening every day. Enjoy it!