Signs of spring are, as the old saying goes, popping up all over. Daffodils and crocuses unfurling their blooms, a pair of mallards paying a visit to my fish pond and the blue skies overhead on sunny days have signaled the transition toward spring as surely as the turning of the calendar page to March.
Some of these familiar sights have been hazy for me during this season of transition. In early February I lost vision in my right eye. After visits to various medical experts, an MRI, blood tests and other procedures, I got a diagnosis of optic papillitis, a form of optic neuritis. In simpler terms, I suffered a stroke of the eye that aggravated and inflamed the optic nerve.
The good news, as I see it, tests have not found any evidence of underlying conditions like cancer or a brain tumor. The bad news, also as I see it, is that recovery is not guaranteed and can take time. The process is usually measured in weeks and months, not days.
It’s been unsettling, to describe it mildly. Reading requires the assistance of a magnifying glass. Too much time focused on a bright screen brings discomfort.
I’m carrying on with birding as best I can. Binoculars, as birders know, are made for use by two eyes. I have feeders to lure the birds in close, but my favorite cardinals, chickadees and wrens are a bit blurry.
I’ve always tried to stay optimistic. I’m hopeful that by the time the ruby-throated hummingbirds return for a sip of sugar water at my feeders in April, my sight will be good enough to enjoy the beauty of their green and white plumage and the brilliant red throat if the visiting hummer is a male.
If spring’s too soon, I’ll push the goal farther along in the 2023 calendar and hope to be ready to identify the annual fall parade of warblers.
As I wait, nothing’s stopping me from enjoying the sounds of spring. On rainy days, the chorus of spring peepers produce their amphibious cacophany at dusk and throughout the night. Many of the birds are also singing their hearts out. Eastern phoebes, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees and Northern cardinals all make their presence with their loud, persistent songs.
On Monday, Feb. 20, I watched as the fuzzy shapes of two dozen red-winged blackbirds dropped down into the cattails in the marshy area near the fish pond. It’s not February for me until I’ve seen a migrating flock of blackbirds benefitting from an overnight stay in the cattails.
On Sunday, Feb. 26, a mallard pair visited the fish pond. They were the first mallards that I’ve observed at my fish pond for many years. In full disclosure, my mom spotted them and informed me of their arrival. Mallards are big enough that I saw the male of the pair easily enough. His green head and chestnut breast stood out from the brown cattails and other vegetation bordering the pond. The female mallard blended nicely with the background and evaded my gaze. Regardless, I was thrilled to welcome mallards back to the pond. They only lingered for a single day, but they have me hoping that other ducks, such as blue-winged teal or wood ducks, will make similar visits as the season progresses.
On March 1, I saw my first spring butterfly. The seasonal first was a spring azure, a tiny, delicate butterfly. The sighting reminded me that nature will provide plenty of incentive to work on regaining my full vision. I still have more butterflies, as well as dragonflies, damselflies, moths and June bugs to look forward to seeing as we progress through spring and summer.
I’ve always believed that nature is a restorative force. Now I am going to test that theory in my goal to have my vision back at or near normal capacity by the time I hear the buzzy whir of hummingbird wings in April.
In the meantime, there will still be plenty of time to focus on our myriad feathered friends. I have someone who has been great at taking down my dictated words for my weekly column.
As always, make a comment, share an observation or ask a question by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.