First Arrival – Killdeer
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40” x 52”, acrylic, 1970
“Many people feel that the first bird of spring is the robin. Before I took a more serious interest in birds, the cheery warble of the robin was indeed a special moment for me each year. After that, the call of the crow or the red-winged blackbird became my spring herald. Either I then became more perceptive or these birds began wintering over. They no longer seemed to be harbingers of spring since they stayed around all winter. The bird that took their place as the first arrival of spring, to me, was the killdeer.
“A killdeer is in the shore bird family and needs to poke in the mud with its bill to find living insect larvae and worms. In winter, all is frozen so there is no accessible food source. About March, when the first warm air masses move over the frozen landscape, the snow begins to melt and forms puddles; the ground becomes soft and the invertebrate life begins to waken from hibernation. It is at this time that a few brave killdeers move north to get the early pickings.
“I have many happy memories of hiking over some sodden pasture, which always reminded me of wet shredded wheat. The smell of warming earth and new life fills my nostrils, and the plaintive cry of the killdeer brings a lift to my heart.”