Thursday, April 2, 2015

April 2, 2015 - Sing a Song of Sixpence!

Sing a song of sixpence,
a pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
baked in a pie.

The red-winged blackbirds are back!  A huge flock landed in my backyard this morning.  I had to use full-zoom to try to photograph them, and I dared not go closer because they are so jumpy.  But you can see the red and yellow stripe on the shoulders of the males.  The yellow part is more prominent when they are at rest on the ground, and the red part is more noticeable when they are flying.

When the pie was opened,
the birds began to sing.
Wasn’t that a dainty dish
to set before the king?
Yes, they are finally back from the south, and this is yet another sign of spring.  I always look to the animals for my signs, especially the birds.  (It won’t be long now for the ospreys!)  I usually hear them before I see them, and today was no exception.  They have a very familiar song, and I knew they were around.  Suddenly, dozens and dozens of them--maybe a hundred or more!--landed in my yard.  The photo only shows a few.

Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.

The king was in the counting house,
counting out his money.
The queen was in the parlor,
eating bread and honey.

The females will build their unmistakable nests soon, made of cattails, rushes, and grasses--never far from an open body of water.  They will line it with mud and lay three or four bluish eggs, which will hatch in less than two weeks.  The hatchlings will be ready to leave the nest just two weeks after hatching!  The female will have a few clutches throughout the season.

The maid was in the garden,
hanging out the clothes.
When down came a blackbird
and pecked off her nose.

Red-winged blackbirds can live 10 to 15 years.  Many people feel that they are a nuisance, especially when they’re migrating back to the north or camping out in a farmer's grain field.  I can’t help it, though; I love them, if only because I know that spring is truly here, but their song makes me happy as well, spring or not.  Sing a song of sixpence!

[“Sing a Song of Sixpence” was first published in the mid 1700s, although there are possible references to it in the early 1600s.  Many meanings have been attached to this poem, from historical events to folklorish tales and symbols.  In 1549 Giovanni de Roselli wrote “Epulario, il quale tratta del modo di cucinare ogni carne, uccelli, etc.,” which included a recipe for a pie that contained live birds.]

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