A Few Things About April

By josh • Nature, Wildlife • 28 Apr 2014

April always seems to be disappointing- the snow is gone, the lake has finally thawed, and there are a few teasingly warm days, but there’s little sustained warmth or sunshine.  Here in the Champlain Valley in mid-April we’re still a month away from leaf out, so things will remain brown and gray for some time yet.

So we’ll find our joy where we can, as we so often must between Halloween and Mother’s Day.  If there’s ever a time to appreciate European Starlings, this is it.  Their plumage is never more vibrant and interesting than in April, and their bills are at their most cheerfully yellow.  This time of year they seem to become more conscientious about their mimicry as well.  Last spring the starlings near the Davis Center at UVM were doing their best Killdeer impersonations, and this year I’ve heard them doing Ring-billed Gull, a bit of a Song Sparrow phrase, and, most convincingly, Eastern Meadowlark.

I had a humorous encounter with a single starling at University Heights last week, where the House Sparrows are already fledging.  The starling sat between two sparrows on the edge of a heating unit making a pitch-perfect House Sparrow chirp.  The starling looked for all the world expectant and hopeful; the sparrows appeared unimpressed in equal measure.

Someday I’d like to see both of those species in Britain, where Shakespeare saw them and inadvertently set into motion the process by which they colonized North America and made life difficult for so many of our native cavity nesters.  I wonder if I’d have more affinity for them in their native environment, where they are apparently struggling.  I wonder if I’d find the horrid bleating of 25 House Sparrows any less obnoxious if it was in someone’s garden in Norfolk instead of in my own backyard.


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