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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note the observations you have made of the world around you.  Insects, weather, fish, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
Seattle. March 29, 2013.

I had to pick clots of sticky cottonwood leaf bracts out from between Bill-the-Dog's toes when we returned from the Forest this afternoon. He was patient. Now his feet smell of musty dog pads and cottonwood resin.

This is the first year in my memory when the fragrance of cottonwood is unaccompanied by the first raucous chatter of parrots. Red-fronted Conures has been our best guess, a colony of escaped house birds that somehow met and bred and thrived over a period of 15 or maybe 20 years in this urban landscape. Local lore has it that they migrate every year, summering in the Forest and heading 10 odd miles up to the wealthy neighborhoods north of the Ship Canal for the winter. Better pickings up there in the hard times, we joked.

Fully 30 or more birds were in the flock at its peak just a few years ago. We had to estimate this number, for they were almost impossible to see, so odd for such big, bright, and loud creatures. We'd hear them cackling back and forth above us, but even with binoculars were lucky to see a shadow rustling among the leaves as they worked the canopy. Big-leaf Maple was their tree of choice; tender leaf sprouts in the early spring, then the flowers and the emerging seeds. Lots of Big-leaf Maples in the Forest. Enough for everyone.

A few years ago there were five. That year we could count them as they flew from tree to tree. Last year three arrived just before the cottonwood resin perfumed the air. In September I could only find two.

It may be that they're late this year, that the pickings available up above the Ship Canal continue to be too delectable. It may be that they are gone.

There is no good reason that I should miss a bird that isn't supposed to be here in the first place. Still, the incongruity of their voices in this grey-green and damp landscape made me laugh almost every time I heard them. I will miss that conversation if they do not return.

March 29, 2013: Cottonwood leaves are breaking all through the Forest.


Your turn. Where are you and what are you seeing (or not seeing) there? Everyone is welcome to join the discussion.

I'll be in and out all day.

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