root cellar

First crow

By KRISTIN BARRON
Posted 3/16/21

I heard a crow this morning. Its boisterous caw resonated across the fields in front of my house when I ran out to get the mail. The wild sound reminded me that spring is alive and rustling beneath …

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root cellar

First crow

Posted

I heard a crow this morning. Its boisterous caw resonated across the fields in front of my house when I ran out to get the mail. The wild sound reminded me that spring is alive and rustling beneath the lingering banks of snow. My mother had a saying about spotting the first crow in spring that went something like this: The first crow in spring means the backbone of winter is broken.

I like the sound of that: The backbone of winter is broken.

I always look for the first crow even though I know flocks are only partially migratory here in upstate New York. Some populations are full-time residents, but others migrate south for the colder months, returning to their home territories in February or March. Those are the crows I am looking for. Not the omens of the dark and spooky, representatives of illness and death. I am waiting for the portents of change and transformation—the harbingers of spring.

The days are lengthening, edging toward the vernal equinox on Saturday, March 20. Tonight, my husband, John, and I took a walk during the golden hour—that hour right before sunset when the light is mellow and warm. The warm light was a contrast to the sharp, cold wind that hit my face as I walked along the rutted, dirt road in front of my house. It is the beginning of the tug-of-war time between winter and spring. Last week, the road was a soup of mud. My shoes sank into the muck. This week the road is back to hardened furrows and ice-covered tire tracks. Either way, freeze or thaw, I am crisscrossing the road to find the smoothest, easiest part of the ground to walk.

In the thin layer of snow, John found the tracks of what appeared to be a fisher cat: a large, weaselly mammal not related to a cat at all. And while a fisher may dine on fish, its name is thought to be most likely a corruption of the French word “fiche,” which denotes the European polecat, a type of weasel native to Europe.

We have seen more fishers in recent years as interest in trapping them for their fur seems to be decreasing and populations are on the rise. John ran into an unusual sight last summer when he saw a family of fishers crossing the road right there before taking off into the treetops. Maybe these winter tracks we saw were from the same animals. Known for eating birds, reptiles, squirrels and other small animals, fishers will also consume nuts, fruit and eggs (and perhaps a henhouse chicken or two). But, most interestingly, it is one of the only animals that will eat porcupines.

Last year, I found the first snowdrops blooming by my back door on February 24. This year, the flowers, with all of us, are waiting for spring. But, I know, it is almost time.

crow, spring, winter

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