a childhood saved

A Naturalist's Notebook

When I was 14-15 years old, I wrote a series of 23 essays as a weekly assignment for my high school English class. I called the series "A Naturalist's Notebook." Naturalist's Notebook Table of Contents

Spring, A Season of Firsts: March 20, 1974

A robin singing at dusk is a common sound in the summer, so common that you often take it for granted. You sometimes don't even notice when the robins stop in the fall. But, in spring, the first robin's dusk call takes on a new meaning. Spring, it seems, is a time of "firsts." Fall is a time of "lasts"—last redwings, last geese, last leaf to fall. Summer and winter are a continuation of the other two seasons. Spring sets the pattern for summer, fall for winter.

The first bird that migrates north is the redwing. Males arrive in February to stake out their claims for nesting sites. Each has his own well-protected mini-acre, reserved for him and his wife, who arrives later.

The first mammal to stir out of hibernation is the chipmunk. He runs around frantically, trying to stretch his cheek pouches to their normal size. We help him by feeding him peanuts. "Ole Grandpappy," our oldest chipmunk, can get three peanuts in at once! Chippers have been known to cram up to 70 sunflower seeds in those pouches.

The first flower, besides the skunk cabbage, is the coltsfoot. A dandelion-like flower, it rises out of roadsides to bloom a bright yellow. It usually comes up on March 10 or thereabouts.

The first bush to flower is the Japanese Andromeda, an imported plant, which has white bell-shaped flowers.

All in all, spring is full of new life waiting to be discovered. It is truly a "season of firsts."