As told by Doug Williams to Julie Kapyrka

At this time of year, every year, it’s been happening for a long time, the great bird migration starts to happen.

According to the Old Ones, it wasn’t always so. They say that the first ones to come from the warmer parts of the earth to this area are the bigger birds. By that I mean the red-winged blackbirds, the grackles, the robins, and blue jays, etc. And they did this for a very long time.

But one day, they say a bird from around the Caribbean, what we call a warbler today, followed the bigger birds and found that there was an overabundance of food for warblers in this area during the warm summer season. So he went back to the south and reported back to the other warblers that this is an amazing place with plenty of insects for food; and that it would be an amazing place to come and make their nests, give birth, feed their young, and then fly back south. This is known today as the great warbler migration.

It thrills my heart when I first see these birds come back. And this week is no exception (March 15). I go around the marshes and try to spot the male red-winged blackbird that comes back from the south and calls from these marshes to his mate who he expects to arrive anytime.

And also, the other signs of spring like the migrating robin as opposed to the local robin. The migrating robin to me is the type of robin that migrates and eats worms. And the local robin is the one that stays over the winter and eats winter berries.

Then I begin to expect to see the warblers. But the warblers don’t come until the 1st of May. And it further gives me great pleasure to hear the great crested flycatcher arrive, usually around the 2nd week of May. These are special birds, that fly all the way up from somewhere down south – a long way. And they come here and live in the maple tree canopy. And we believe that they are a bird that keeps the maple trees company during this time of year.

The other interesting part to all of this is that we know that birds are dependent upon many things to be in sync – there has to be good weather, there has to be, as an example, big beautiful Canada thistle that the yellow finch uses to build its nest. Without the thistle where is the yellow finch going to get its nesting material?

There are other birds like that – where a seed from a plant will not sprout until it has passed through the gut of a bird. This tells us that some plants are dependent on birds and sometimes birds are dependent on plants. It’s called a symbiotic relationship.

Old Nishnaabeg knew this and recognized that we are all part of a circle. A circle of relationships that depend on us all being together, getting along, and sharing the abundance of goodness that grows every year in this part of the world.

Interestingly, not many plants or animals depend on humans for survival… but that is another story.

MinaajimDeb Crossen