Spring brings plenty of firsts
Spring is a season of firsts and the color yellow, from the first daffodil to bloom, the first goldfinch to cast off his dull brown coat of winter and the first ear of sweet corn grown down south to hit the shelves of the grocery store.
My favorite yellow first of spring is perhaps the forsythia. Its cheerful blooms brighten the drab, colorless landscape just before the trees grow leaves and everything turns green. Now the forsythia flowers are fading and azaleas are taking over as the herald of spring, and the color yellow is taking a backseat to the showier shades of pink, purple and red, which is just as good, because my favorite birds (that happen to like red flowers) are back.
We had another first in our yard last week: the first hummingbird of the season.
Every year around February I start getting weary of winter and ready for spring. The logical part of my brain knows it’s way too early to put them out, but I take down the box of hummingbird feeders from the shelf in the garage anyway and bring them inside to take stock of my supplies. One hummingbird feeder is just not enough. They sit around in the living room ready to be hung up at the first hint of warm weather.
My game plan every year is to have my feeders up before everyone else and have more than everyone else, so that I can attract more hummingbirds to my yard and keep them from leaving. It may seem selfish, but these little birds really are my favorite to watch as they zip back and forth.
My dad had a couple of hummingbird feeders when I was growing up in Dentsville. So many hummingbirds drank from those feeders that he would have to refill them because they were empty, not because the nectar got spoiled from hot weather. As he would hang them back up, hummingbirds would buzz around him, hovering for a chance to be the first at the replenished feeder.
That’s a far cry from today. One hand is enough to count the number of hummingbirds frequenting my yard every summer. I’m hoping this year will be different.
Mother’s Day is next month and a hummingbird feeder would make a great gift. Feeders today come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from ornate vintage bottles to ones you can hang on a window for a closer view. My favorite ones are the kind with wide bottlenecks that you can put directly in the dishwasher when they need to be cleaned.
The nectar is simple and inexpensive to make. You don’t need anything but regular white sugar and water. Heat four parts water on the stove, add one part sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then let the pot sit until the nectar cools.
Don’t add any red food coloring to the nectar. It’s not necessary and it might be harmful. And, actually, hummingbirds don’t drink exclusively from red flowers only. They like whatever color flowers have the most nectar, and on the day we saw that first hummingbird, we also saw him visiting the forsythia blooms in our side yard for a few sips of nectar — another first.
Spring certainly is a season of firsts. My youngest daughter turned 1 this past Saturday. Happy first birthday, Naomi.
Every Kid in a Park
Do you have a fourth grader at home? My oldest daughter is in the fourth grade at the Chesapeake Charter School in Lexington Park. Between new sneakers and gymnastics lessons and everything else it takes to raise a healthy, happy kid, it seems like more money is always going out than coming in.
Sure, April 15 means a tax break for parents, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $300,000 experts estimate it takes to raise a child from birth to age 18.
But if you’re the parent of a fourth grader, you can thank your child for saving you some money when you visit any of the state parks in Maryland this summer.
The Maryland Park Service will accept the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park pass now through Aug. 31 at all 72 state parks. The purpose of the program is to increase accessibility to public lands and waters for children — primarily 9 to 10 years old — and their families. The pass
will provide free admission to Maryland state parks but will not cover additional amenities, such as camping, boat rentals or staff-led tours.
In Southern Maryland, some of the parks that will take the Every Kid in a Park pass include Point Lookout State Park, Greenwell State Park, Chapman State Park, Smallwood State Park, and Calvert Cliffs State Park.
My daughter filled out the application online, which took about a minute. You’ll need to be able to print the pass from your device as electronic copies are not accepted. For more information, go to www.everykidinapark.gov.