An American Kestrel takes a bow.Starlings are back. Murmurating clouds on snack break turn large sections of local lawns black where they hide what is left of last week’s snow “storm.”

I love that word: murmurating. It even sounds musical. I can imagine an unseen conductor waving a wand, swirling the cloud of birds, sweeping and swirling like a dancer with a silk scarf. They flow through the air as a single airborne organism, hundreds, maybe thousands, of independent molecules somehow managing to avoid crashing into each other.

We humans have trouble driving a car by itself on a four-lane road and keeping the vehicle between the shoulders.

I heard a Mourning dove early this week, the first of the new year. Not that there are no doves out there somewhere, but having one nearby, cooing in the cold, promises greener, warmer times are on the way.

I do not know many bird calls. I cannot tell the difference between a chirping House Sparrow and a Cedar Waxwing. Sometimes, I get lucky and hear the only bird around, and see it sing, and remember, for maybe a few days, the match between the data collected in my eyes and ears.

Most of the time, I marvel at the sound while its source remains hidden, and constantly flitting among the bushes.

I once lived where the Spring Announcement was the first call of a Common Loon. Of course, that depended on when the ice disappeared, or nearly so, from the surface of the lake a short distance from my front door. Imagine cabin fever being vanquished by the call of a winged harbinger that had, for several thousand years, hewn to that one purpose – to bring joy to humans who had served the past few months trapped by the snows of winter.

Doves have that role where I now reside. The universe always provides hope when the skies are dark.

Amazingly, they are of the same family as pigeons, those pesty birds that roost along the upper ledges of tall manmade, seemingly preferably, brick buildings, like the county courthouse. There once was – and still may be – an owl statue mounted on one of the upper ledges to scare away the pigeon population. It didn’t work very well. At times, some pigeons appeared to be trying to start up a conversation with the silent old owl.

But doves hang around my home, often acting like lovebirds, snuggling and grooming each other – and casting their distinctive coo.

A few days ago, I found an American Kestrel. The colorful blue-winged, crow-size falcons are a bit rare in Adams County, especially when compared to Red-tailed hawks, which are only slightly less findable than the vultures that flock in our skies, cleaning up after Mother Nature.

One thing I’ve learned about critters – human included – is we tend to become used to our neighborhoods. If one wants to get a picture of an American Kestrel, for instance, the thing to do is go where you are sure one hangs out, and then spend some serious time there. The bird will show up, and when it decides you’re not going to shoot at it, it’ll pose for you. I will be back for more pictures.

But warnings of spring are a bit premature. Snow at my house has not been enough to require the snowthrower, but the air certainly has been cold. On the other hand, days are noticeably longer, at least when the sun is not covered by clouds from a rumored approaching winter storm. The creeks are mostly covered with ice, even where the water is wide and deep. But it’s coming, and I’m ready.