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Selected Podpieces


The other day I saw the first two honeybees of the spring in my front yard. They were examining a clutch of crocuses near the driveway; each of them hovered indecisively over the bright yellow and deep purple ones before diving into the striped purple and white ones for a long sip of nectar. Note to self: plant more striped crocus bulbs next fall.

On the same day I was poking around in the perennial garden out back when suddenly a large solitary bee lifted off from under a batch of oak leaves and flew away. I hope he had just been napping, waiting for the sun to hit the garden; surely I didn’t wake him up from his long winter’s sleep. Note to self: don’t mess around in the garden too early in the spring, or in the day.

On another day that week I was resting on the back deck after some strenuous lettuce planting when a male goldfinch, almost completely molted into his summer suit, dropped onto the suet feeder for a midday snack. On closer inspection, though, I saw that his breast was streaked, and his bill was thin and tapered, better for eating insects than the seed-eating goldfinch’s triangular bill. It was a Pine warbler, back from the south! He loaded up on a healthy helping of suet and then zipped off into the woods. I made a note: put suet on grocery list.

The long-anticipated arrival of spring has brought back sleepers and travellers: the striped chipmunks, stuffing their little cheeks with fallen sunflower seeds, are back to making fun of the cat in the window. And according to the migration map on the Interweb, the ruby-throated hummingbirds have reached the Cape. It’s time to put up the sugar water feeders.

And the Baltimore orioles can’t be too far behind.

Not all the spring news is particularly good. The loathsome brown-headed cowbirds, beautiful and musical though they are, are crowding the platform feeder and awaiting their chances to parasitize every nest in the neighborhood.

And down the road, the bee tree is silent. A big old hollow locust, for the last few years it has come alive with honeybees in the spring. You could hear it buzzing from thirty feet away, and when you got close you could see the residents busily going about their apian business, zipping in and out of the entrance, finding and delivering nectar and pollen.

This spring, I stop every morning as I pass and step up close to the trunk to press my ear against the rough gray bark, but no one is stirring. I hope they made it through the long winter. I hope they’re sleeping in, waiting for the air to get a little warmer, a few more flowers to bloom, before they yawn, stretch, and get back to the business of living.
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