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Wednesday, April 21, 2021
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The Towhee Moon

BY HARRY WEEKES

Super Worm Moon. “What?” It’s one of those names you don’t quite hear correctly even when you hear it correctly. “Did you say ‘warm’ moon?” Nope, Worm Moon.

The last Sunday of March was the Super Worm Moon, a reference to the fact that it is during this time that the ground gets warm enough for earthworms to start working their magic. Or, continue working their magic, rather.

Interestingly, it is also called the Wind Strong Moon. Interesting because it was that same Sunday night that I was told the next day was when we’d have “60-mile-an-hour winds all day.”

Needless to say, I went to bed all sorts of excited—the moon was out, it was full, and the whole valley was bathed in its light. It didn’t take long in terms of sleep time before the first heavy wind whistled through the canyon and pushed into the house. Something happens to the air pressure between outside and inside during high winds. There is enough of a change that you can feel the wind, even protected by windows, house, and two mini-Dachshunds.

By the time the moon gave way to the sun, the wind had worked itself into a fervor—gusting and pulsing and buffeting.

But this isn’t a story of moon or wind, though both invariably play a part. This is a story about the only member of the sparrows I can actually identify—the spotted towhee. In particular, the spotted towhee that was sitting on the exposed grass of my lawn, tucked against a rock wall, with a look on its face that read, “Did I come back too early?”

I pulled open the door, walked over to where the bird was, and gently pushed my hand under her. She accepted my offer by hopping onto my finger, while also staying fluffed up and tucked up. As soon as the wind hit us, she opened her beak a little bit. Realizing the error of my ways, I set her back down against the rock, where she stayed until some unknown convergence of variables caused her to fly off.

OK, obviously, I repeated the whole scene to get the above picture, which somehow made the moment more poignant. Here was this little bird, freshly returned to the neighborhood, knowing full well that she made the right choice for a whole suite of reasons—the full moon, the strong winds, the exposed grass and sage and seeds, the amount of light, the other birds singing in the area.

In her birdscape, I doubt I even registered as anything other than some transitory tree with really warm fingers that might not even have registered in her leathery toes.

For her part, this little fluffball changed the entire landscape for me. You know that full moon in March, the one accompanied by the strong winds and the first of the bare ground? Yep, that’s the Towhee Moon.

Harry Weekes is the founder and head of school at The Sage School in Hailey.  This is his 49th year in the Wood River Valley, where he lives with Hilary and two of their three baby adults—Penelope and Simon. The other member of the flock, Georgia, is currently fledging at Davidson College in North Carolina.

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