The Naked Signs of Spring
From Vultures to Violets here in the American South
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Although it lives off the remains of the dead, the Turkey Vulture carries north the resurrection of spring. So from my outpost here in the American South, I bring you vernal news of vultures and violets, maples and metalmarks.
Forget those myths about robins and crocuses as harbingers of spring. American Robins spend winter where the snow falls, and crocuses aren’t native to North America anyway. Instead, for those of you in northern states and Canada, spring glides in on angled wings and a naked, ruddy head. Read all about spring Turkey Vultures in my earlier post titled Migration Misfits or listen to a vulture tribute I wrote for the radio/podcast series BirdNote.
Meanwhile, in the image gallery below you can envision a bit of what else is coming north based on what’s happening in the South, where I am now playing and working. But first, pictured here is the Rio Grande cutting through Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, in south Texas, where Ruth and I hiked for a week and where Mexico is a close neighbor in nature.
I’m now heading downriver, toward Brownsville, toward the border wall, toward human and political tragedy. I’ll report back next month here on the blog — and during a fundraising supper on March 21 at North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, Vermont. Over dinner and a slide show at the event, I’ll discuss wild nature and human nature along the borderlands. It’s all for a good cause: to help send a group of Vermont teen birders to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in April. I hope to see you there.
Now, on to springtime images from across the South. Click any of them for a bigger view or to start your slideshow.
Why Turkey Vultures are harbingers of spring in the north.
The start of my "Alert" series on tree flowering in the Northeast
More examples of crazy mega-zoom photos (like the Crissal Thrasher in this post's image gallery).
Before the recent shitstorm along the border, we were down in Big Bend and took a rowboat across the Rio Grande to the small Mexican community of Santa Elena. We had lunch, visited the local school, and bathed in the warmth of the wonderful people there. Perhaps one day . . .
There’s still a novel border crossing at Boquillas, in the park. It’s kind of odd how Americans can pay $5 to be ferried across the river and back amid all the struggle along that river.
Thanks Bryan for your burst of colors on these weary eyes. Can’t wait to catch up real time.
You’re welcome, Micki. Yeah, “real time” is coming!
Now I know why they use the Rio Grand as the dividing point between the US and Mexico. They certainly don’t need to built a wall here, nature has done a pretty good job of that!
Indeed it has Chuck. Nature, colonialism, warfare, agriculture, water rights — oh how we’ve altered the natural and political landscape. 🙂
Hey Bryan, great pics of the beauty of South Texas. My wife and I live in Worcester, VT, but in the winter we work at Laguna Atascosa NWR near Brownsville giving bird tours. Our grandson is coming down with the NBNC youth birders group and we are excited for those young men to see this incredible part of the USA before it is totally spoiled! If you are near our area, give a shout.
Hi David, Wow — great! I just might get out your way. I’ll keep you posted.
That is the best picture of mirrored Santa Elena canyon I have ever seen! It’s gorgeous!
Thanks, Bruce. Maybe we can meet up when I pass through San Antonio on my way north!
Hi Bryan, Sigh…such lovely pix, thank you! “If winter comes, can spring be far behind”. You have brought a little spring today! Now we are watching for our osprey to return to the cove! You should come visit us sometime!
Thanks! Well, I hope I’m not rushing spring and creating false hope. It is February, after all. 🙂 But those vultures are already on the move north! Keep me posted on your Osprey. And thanks much for the invitation! I just might take you up on it during field work this year.
A bit of color and a moment to pause and enjoy, so welcome after a week of disappointing news. Thank you! Keep sending your thoughtful dispatches 🙂
Nice to hear from you, Catherine. Sending optimism and hope from the South …
So wonderful. I love Big Bend. Can hardly wait to hear more about your adventure on the Rio Grande.
(Note: having grown up in Texas, I can’t resist pointing out that residents of that region consider it the “American Southwest.” )
Yeah, I’m sorta torn on that. East Texas is more American Southeast. West Texas, with its Chihuahuan desert, which we have at Big Bend, is more Southwest. But it’s somewhere in the middle, right?
Any time I see the word “naked” in a post about you and Ruth in the wilderness, I start to get concerned. But then I saw that you were just referring to a Turkey Vulture’s head….
Ha! Yeah, that “naked” thing is my well-trodden, crass marketing strategy! 🙂
Wow you healed my snow-white blindness. I CAN SEE AGAIN – I recognize colors again (other than red hearts, cardinals against a white backdrop – I was color blind).
All hail faith that spring will once again come,
buds will grow
leaves will pop
birds will sing.
For now Bryan, and the desert remind us
even from barren landscapes
even atop far away high walls of stone.
It’s comin’, Bernie! Hang in there (even though I know you find many delights all year long). 🙂