This morning the first phoebe of the season paid a visit. As usual, he sat on a black locust tree branch and sang for a while, then moved about to other branches on other black locust trees, and then after about a half hour of circling from one tree to another, flew off. Every season phoebes visit, but seldom do they set up a nest nearby. Last summer, though, they nested in the eaves of the porch roof. They built two nests over the course of the summer for two successive broods. One day in August I heard the male phoebe crying his heart out, possibly because his mate had been killed. Shortly afterwards, they all were out of the nest. I'll be watching to see if they nest here this summer.
Because of the cold, late spring, the season may be a little backward, as they say around here. Apple blossoms, and the arrival of the warblers, had been a week or two earlier than usual in recent years; but this one may be back to the old schedule. I don't have a record to tell me when phoebes have arrived in past years. Around this time of year crows are abundant and loud, as if having conferences in the woods, and flying about in the mornings, sometimes dropping down to walk about and feed on the ground. The purple finches are showing themselves and beginning to sing, their song somewhat like the robin. The ground is thawing, and the vernal pools are iced on the bottom, soon to melt and in June or July to dry up. The ice storm that hit this part of Maine just before last Christmas was less kind to the mainland; some trees, particularly birches, are bent while others are broken. A good deal of ice formed here as well, on the tree branches and wires; but probably the slightly warmer temperatures helped melt it sooner. A couple of days ago the ground finally showed some green shoots poking up through the matted thatch. Only in the shadiest forest places is there still ice on the ground now. In another week it and all the ice on the bottoms of the vernal pools will be gone. "Ice out" day on the rivers and streams used to be an important time marker in these parts, but not many notice it any more.