The Live Wire
Early Birds And Muffins
By Greg Rummo
Jun 11, 2004 - 1:56:00 PM

Photo by Jeannika Xiong

Nature's alarm clock went off at precisely 4:47 a.m. last Friday morning. I was somewhere floating in a dream, enjoying the cool, damp, lightly scented floral air as it drifted in the open window to our bedroom when a flock of robins decided it was time to wake up everyone in the neighborhood.

I cracked my eyelids just long enough to note the time and see that it was still dark outside. Drifting off back to sleep for another half hour I was again roused from a dream, this time by a cardinal as it announced its arrival on one of our bird feeders in the backyard.


When the clock radio finally did go off at 5:30 a.m. it was no use hitting the snooze bar, I had already been through the equivalent of that twice, courtesy of our feathered friends.


This is the time of year when our area is blessed with a menagerie of birds. First, it was the robins and the grackles and the flickers and the red-winged blackbirds. Next, there were cedar waxwings appearing along with the hummingbirds. Goldfinches which wintered here began to adorn themselves in their bright yellow spring plumage, appearing so-to-speak along with the cardinals and the blue jays and the wrens, all of them emboldened to come out of hiding and look for places to make their nests. 


And it's only going to get better over the next few weeks as the thrushes and the warblers begin to appear through the deciduous forests.  


Man's fascination with birds is remarkable. He travels over the globe, to extremes like the Amazon rain forest to catch a glimpse of a rare toucan or a macaw or to Antarctica to study the Emperor Penguin.


But you know what? My backyard isn't such a bad place for observing birds. I've had nuthatches, cardinals, blue jays, wrens and several species of woodpeckers raise their families right under our noses. 


A couple of times a wood duck was lured to nest in one of my three nest boxes in the woods down near the lake where during the winter a small screech owl roosted to stay out of the cold.


But it's not just my backyard that's the hot spot for avian activity.

A reader wrote to me last month to share a lament about the ruckus a pair of Canada geese was making on her lake during the pre-dawn hours.

She explained: "The first year we didn't have any trouble with the geese. The second year, a pair landed and our neighbor assured us that this might be the same pair that has been arriving for past years. Now this year, the same pair returned and we were delighted, but then, a second pair arrived, much to the distress of the first pair.  Despite the constant honking and the battles which were taking place on the pond, nothing deterred the second pair so we decided OK, they are beautiful to watch, let's let nature take its course.  But, lo and behold, this morning we were awakened to honking (at 5:30 am) beyond belief. When I looked out the window, a third couple had landed and boy, was there activity. At this point, I don't have any idea who the resident couple is and I certainly don't want a Club Med situation."

In a subsequent e-mail she wrote to tell me she was awakened so early one morning, she decided to give up trying to go back to sleep and instead bake muffins.

I suppose being awakened by the birds is an inescapable fact of living in the New Jersey Highlands. One could always close the windows but who would want to miss the early morning symphony in the park?


And it sure beats being jarred out from under the covers by the sounds of the city, the screams of emergency vehicles, the clatter of elevated trains and the constant THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! of rap music played on car stereos at ridiculous volumes through the wee hours of the morning.


So enjoy the birds in the morning. It won't be long before they settle down and become less boisterous. And to the woman with the geese on her lake I ask: Where else are you going to get fresh-baked muffins at 4:00 a.m.?


Greg Rummo is a syndicated columnist. Read all of his columns on his homepage,

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