My birthday will be coming up a little later this month. The day I was born held the record for the coldest February day that year, my mother told me. My husband, with his scientific bent and years of weather records, confirmed this.
So it was a bit of a surprise early one cold February morning a week or so ahead of my birthday to discover the drumming of a woodpecker and the singing of a titmouse, a Carolina wren and several cardinals!
Drumming - when a woodpecker hammers its bill against something to make a loud sound - and song are ways birds announce they are in a particular territory. if you are a rival male, stay away from here. If you are a female, please come closer.
On this particular morning it was sunny, the temperature was in the low 20s and there was very little wind. Compared with our recent week of subfreezing temperatures and high winds - the longest cold period we've had in over a decade, according to at least one weather forecaster during that time - this morning must've felt like spring even as I was walking on snow and was bundled up.
Do the birds know something I don't? Perhaps like Staten Island Chuck and some of the other woodchuck prognosticators they are having a premonition of an early spring.
The temperature is one thing they are noticing. So is the increasing amount of daylight. Back in winter, at the time of the solstice, it was dark around 4:30pm ET in my part of New Jersey. Now the sunset time is after 5:15pm.
During the unusual warmth we had in early January that preceded the deep freeze later in the month, my early bloomers started poking above the ground - daffodils and irises. When it became cold again they stopped growing and went back to domancy because they knew, even without a calendar, that the time wasn't right.
That will probably be the case with the birds, although I've noticed over the years there are some that sing year-round.
One in particular is the Carolina wren, one of my favorites. Whatever the season it will suddenly sit on a roof, high in a tree or in a bush and sing a song so loud you can hear it blocks away.
The smallest of New Jersey's woodpeckers, the downy, is also amazingly loud when it drums. If it can't find a branch that amplifies the drumming to its liking it will find something else - I've seen one hammering into a metal transformer atop a utility pole.
But I am sure the birds will not be singing once the current false spring ends and winter returns. I was lucky today - right place, right time.
Still, it is nice to be reminded that no matter how cold and snowy the next month or two will be, spring will eventually come bringing light and warmth - I hope - and the birds will start singing in earnest.