February’s sun is a pale and puny thing. On cloudless mornings when the cold creeps in, the sun can barely chin itself above the Cascade foothills. Even when it finally shines on the frost-silvered grass, it is too weak to melt the ice.
On mornings when clouds blanket the earth, the sun is no stronger. You can see it try to dissolve the shrouding gray, but at best it can clear away only a hazy hole in the clouds, peering through like a rheumy eye.
Yet I and the birds rejoice at the arrival of the February sun for, as feebly as its rays stroke the brown grass, it brings the first signs of spring. The eagles know this and have begun to dance together in the sky. Yesterday they met above Union Bay, circled each other once, and then flew together, one atop the other. So closely did they fly that their wing beats had to synchronize perfectly, else they would have crashed. Then they separated and flew side by side, the tips of their wings caressing each other briefly.
Meanwhile, the Red-winged Blackbird males have begun singing their bagpipe songs, staking out their own little territories among the cattails. They know the females choose mates based on the quality of the males’ property, and each male wants to claim the best lot on the block. The air is full of their challenges, as they swell up and then let fly with a raucous song. Then they leap into the air, flashing their orange-red epaulets as if to say to rivals, “Take a look at these, Bub. Yeah, who’s bad?”
The Green-winged Teals are fighting too, if you can call it that. The males lift their little tufts on the backs of their heads, like jousters adjusting their helmets, and then they paddle toward each other. But they always stop short of making contact. Instead they puff up their tiny chests and peep. There were five having this kind of knock-down, drag-out fight on the Lagoon yesterday. They were all trying to impress a lone female, who, if she had had nails to polish, would have been buffing them in supreme indifference.
But the males were not discouraged. The earth has begun its ponderous tilt, leaning the northern climes back into the full force of the sun once again. Spring is coming, and soon it will be time to make more ducks. And more eagles. And more blackbirds.