Friday, May 16, 2014

Shad Week

If you need a gauge for spring, a reference point for nature's progression, look to the blooming of the shad tree. Then your system for anticipating other events becomes "Shad +/- ___ days."
Whatever you are encountering in our current week is happening at Shad Time.

Kingbird pair in a shad tree
Fly-catching kingbirds have returned because the warmth that brings the shad to bloom also prompts bugs to hatch. These events depend on the weather and are not precisely correlated to the calendar. They coincide with the arrival of their namesake shad fish coming to spawn in natal brooks and rivers.

Shad variations
Halibut Point is home to green-leaved and red-leaved species of the shad tree. Visually speaking, the foliage tints rescue the whiteness of the flowers from strident collision with the blueness of the sky over head. The leaves substantiate the petals in space where they would otherwise be too ethereal to comprehend. The inflorescences do fine by themselves on misty days, or against dark patinas on a quarry wall.

Mutual illumination
The flowers express a delicate counterpoint to granite surfaces, fleeting kisses blown to enduring processes etched on the stone, neither more nor less miraculous. They contribute to the organization of time and materials we appreciate as the rhythms of beauty, an interplay of appearances and disappearances.

Episodes in time
Shad Week means conditions are right for apple blossoms to begin to open on trees that have naturalized throughout the area, descendants of the fruit first introduced by European settlers.

Apple blossom advent
Just now towhees take to the treetops to advertise their homesteading plans, intoning chewink, chewink or pweet, pweet. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's description of this bird as "a strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East" suggests a feathery conclusion by a committee of the arts and sciences.
Towhee singing

"The strikingly marked, oversized sparrow"
Warblers are now on the move, often at dizzying and elusive speed. It is said that the neon-colored redstarts flash their feathers to scare insects, which they then catch in the air.
Redstart warbler
Luckily for birdwatchers the warblers' movement through our area to northern breeding grounds occurs just before tree foliation would make our view of them much more difficult. Many of the warblers depend on finding insects emerging along with the leaves.
Black-throated blue warbler
By the end of the week the most delicate of floral displays has ended in the litter of shad petals whose significance was incomparably greater on the tree than on the ground. In emergence the petals confirmed  the unfolding of spring in the landscape and the first phase of the tree's reproductive season that will bear fruit -  shad berries - for the continuity of its species.

Fallen petals
On a pond surface multitudes of micro-organisms are waiting to digest shad petals into their cosmos. While they served the tree the flowers were protected by its vitality, but detached, they return to ooze in the secret life of water.

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