The bluebird carries the sky on his back.”    ~  Thoreau

While flowers are bursting in riotous color here in the Columbia River Gorge and the local gardening store’s parking lot is full, my attention, as it is every March, turns to the celebration of returning birds.  Welcome home.

Local folks say this spring is three weeks early and that notion sounds about right as the robin flocks are well established, black-headed grosbeaks are out warbling the warblers, and even the turkey vultures have made their way back to the seasonal cliff haunts.

We have many reasons to be thankful for the birds:  Without a squawk, and for free, our avian friends pollinate our food, consume quadzillons of insect pests, and like spring blooms, add mad splashes of splendid color to our yards and wild neighborhoods.

Birdlife International reports that we associate ourselves with one-half of all birds species as pets, food, harvesting feathers for bedding, and guano for fertilizer.  Specifically, birds are economic power houses as people throughout the land spend 20 billion dollars on bird watching gear, travel and food.  Birds’ ecological services feature vultures, crows, and yes a bird called the kite serving as sanitation workers removing dead creatures from the roads and landscape.  If you enjoy wine, Napa Valley vineyards eliminated Pierce’s disease after placing 1,000 bluebird boxes among the grapes.  Wading birds re-locate fish eggs stuck to their legs!  Island cultures utilize diving cormorants to help them gather fish.  A local high-elevation tree, the white-barked pine, has its seeds dispersed through only one means: the Clark’s nutcracker.

And bird calls are the equivalent of “white light,” music so heavenly their lilting notes must make the angels envious.  When the spring migrating species arrive from the south (They don’t call them snow birds for nothing), full symphonies arise, greeting the dawn and also carrying their bass hoots into the night.

So, let’s lift our binoculars in honor to birds as Rita Dove writes:  “Here’s to the air and one bird flying.”