Stopping to smell the irises on an overcast morning

Stopping to smell the irises on an overcast morning

Another light rain early Tuesday morning, but at least it settled the dust on the gravel river road that I like to take to La Farge. A handsome rooster pheasant stepped out of the wet grass at the side of the road. He roused and shook all his wet feathers at once, but still looked pretty damp around the edges. Even so he was still a pretty sight to see with his bright scarlet wattles and nifty sharp spurs.

 

Roused rooster pheasant, but still quite wet

Roused rooster pheasant, but still quite wet

The dampness has kept me from taking longer walks through the meadow, and I was surprised to see how quickly things have popped up. It was good to see the familiar prairie plants that are spreading over the meadow. A small patch of jack-in-the-pulpit at the edge of the woods is twenty inches tall and in full bloom. A beautiful, lush, light green blossom in a pinstriped suit—ready for the Kickapoo flower show.

Jack-in-the-pulpit

Jack-in-the-pulpit

The farmers may be having a little trouble getting into their fields because of the wet weather, but their cattle seem to be enjoying their time in the green pastures. They’re looking fat-n-sassy, and don’t seem to mind the weather. So far, it looks like a great year for lots of grass and, in turn, all the benefits that come with it. Here’s to watching it grow all summer!

If you’re like me, you love the way the green summer foliage reflects off the dark moving river. Pretty as a picture, and always worth a few moment’s pause to take it in. Just a few moments to pause and smell the lovely pink honeysuckle blossoms, then I look up along a thick tree-trunk to see the patches of blue sky through the branches of a grand cottonwood tree. It’s a squirrel’s view of the world the way he sees it as he scurries up the trunk. Take a few moments to look closely at the tiny white flowers around a bunch of high bush cranberry, blooming from the outside of the clump, circling several rows of green buds to the center.

 

A Kickapoo River scene

A Kickapoo River scene

 

The mighty cottonwood tree

The mighty cottonwood tree

 

The turtles are on the move in the valley, out of the river, ponds and backwaters to dry land. It’s time for many of them to lighten their load, and they crawl off to find a good place to dig a hole to lay their eggs. They aren’t real quick about crossing the road, so I always pull over (it it’s a safe place) and help them across, always in the direction they are headed. I like to check the bottom of the shell. It it’s flat, the turtle is a female. The male’s bottom shell is slightly concave.

 

Painted turtle

Painted turtle

Female painted turtle

Female painted turtle

 

It was good to feel the sun Monday morning and I knew it might be a good time to see the turtles basking in the warm rays. It’s about the only time you might see a turtle out of the water, other than when it’s egg-laying time. I rarely see the big river soft shell turtles, so I stopped to check a backwater where I’d seen them before. I sneak up to the edge of the water and, sure enough, basking in the sunshine on the opposite bank is a single 15-20-pound soft shell turtle. The soft shell turtle is very shy and when it spots me quickly slides off the bank and into the water, but not before I snap a couple of pictures. Soft shell turtles are the only turtles that I don’t like to handle, because they are dangerous. They can bite like a snapping turtle and have necks long enough to reach back to their tails, so I steer clear. On land, a soft shell turtle can stand up on his feet and run if he has to.

 

Soft shell turtle

Soft shell turtle

 

 

chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

I heard the song of the little male chipping sparrow before I saw him. A string of 8 to 10 little chips that run rapidly together into a little trill. Suddenly he landed on a spruce bough only a few feet away to show me how pretty he is.

It’s been a very pleasant walk along the edge of the backwater pond. Even the carp occasionally slapped the surface with their red tails, but that’s all I saw of them. I did see a whole fish, though, when a colorful little bluegill hovered near the surface of the still water. I’m sure he spent the winter under the ice and is probably glad to be able to see the sky again. I’m sure the sun must feel good to him, too.

bluegill

Surfacing bluegill

 

More rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, then cloudy on Friday with temperatures around 55 degrees. I think of how good it would feel to a  fawn that has spent the first couple of days of life in the cool rain. I’ve been watching every day for that first fawn sighting, but it hasn’t happened yet. Friday morning there was a beautiful doe hanging around the tall grass near my house. She saw me but didn’t run off. She just stood there and watched me as I went into the house. I think she has hidden her fawn somewhere close by, and she will return for a feeding from time to time during the day. It wouldn’t be the first time a doe hid her fawn near my gardens, so I’ll be watching.

Whatever the weather may be, it’s always a good time for a walk down nature’s trail, especially this time of year.  It is surely the very best way to put a green charge into your life—so many new sights, sounds, smells and tastes to tickle your senses, enhance your mind and refresh you spirit.

Naturally Yours,

Dan