The sun breaks over a local pond

The sun breaks over a local pond

The weather finally warmed a bit this week and we also were able to enjoy the sunshine that seemed would never come. Funny how all it takes sometimes is a little sunshine to change people’s attitudes and warm their hearts.

The sun seemed to warm the hearts of the wild flowers too and they seemed to pop open because of it. Pretty flowers that I haven’t seen for a year were now in bloom around every corner. How wonderful it is to see their colorful faces again after so long. A small patch of yellow puccoons made a bright yellow appearance on a sandy hillside. They are one of my favorite June prairie plants and are seldom seen these days. The honeysuckle-like red flowers of the columbine hang from the ends of droopy stems. They don’t seem to mind not getting a lot of sun and are most often found under the shade of the trees.

The grass in the fields has grown tall enough for the grassland birds to find safe places to build their nests. Often I can hear their songs but I can’t see them in the tall green grass. One of my favorites is the bobolink, another grassland bird whose population has dwindled over the years due to the loss of habitat. With just a little imagination you can hear his name in his pretty song, “bob-o-link, bob-o-link!” The song is a bubbling, tinkling, rollicking string of melodic notes that distinguish him from all the other birds. Once known as the skunk bird, he flutters from place to place in the tall grass and shasta daisies.

The snowy white blossoms of the Canada Anemone stand pretty at the edge of the meadow. They seem to prefer a place where the soil stays damp. The Canada Anemone will spread from the roots into large colonies. The large white flowers are actually modified leaves and the yellow center is the true flower.

 

House wren

House wren

I love the summer song of the little house wren each morning. He’s always ready to greet the sun and will sing his busy song all day. For me, it’s one of the true sounds of summer. Funny how something so small can have such an impact on my mood and he never fails to cheer me up.

There is a small log across the stream at the far end of the meadow. I usually cross the stream here and step on the log on my way over to the other side. Just before I put my foot down on the log I noticed it was covered with harvest ants. I’m thinking that they are going to turn the log into their new home so I didn’t disturb them and jumped across the stream instead.

Since I spotted a male red-headed woodpecker a couple of weeks ago, I’m happy to say that I’ve seen five others in the last week. Some summers I don’t see any of these beautiful woodpeckers, so seeing six of them in the past couple of weeks is very encouraging. The one I saw this morning was kind enough let me take his picture. A single monarch butterfly drifted by as I was watching the woodpecker but I wasn’t quick enough to get him in the camera lens. That was the only monarch I’ve seen this summer but I’ll be watching for others to return, soon I hope. Here’s the unmistakable sound of a happy woodpecker.

Two of my favorite early summer wild flowers are five or six feet tall and are in bloom. The angelica and the cow parsnip stand out high above the grass and their large white flower heads can’t be missed.

The robins were having such a fit Thursday morning that I had to go see what they were so mad about. Their alarm calls were coming from a leafy maple tree, and looking up through the branches I saw a young blue jay peering down at me. The robins and blue jays never seem to get along and the young blue jay was learning the hard way. The robins were relentless but the young jay sat tight and stood his ground. I’m sure they will sort it all out eventually.

 

Beautiful flock of cliff swallows at dawn

Beautiful flock of cliff swallows at dawn

 

On the way home from La Farge I stopped at the bridge along the river road to check on the cliff swallows. Every year there is a large colony of these swallows numbering some two hundred pairs who build their mud nests under the bridge. It’s always a rush to watch so many swallows milling around together over the river. They have a lovely gentle call which makes for a beautiful chorus when they all sing together. Most of them were males who were patiently waiting for the females who were keeping their tiny eggs warm under the bridge.

A song sparrow sang to me as I walked along the path at the edge of the woods. He called “maids, maids, maids, put on your teakettle-ettle-ettle-ettle.” He then flew into the brush near me, gave a few little chirps, and flew off into the woods. No sooner had he left when another familiar bird song came from the brush. “Withcity, witchity, witchity,” the song of the common yellowthroat came from a tiny hidden bird in the leaves. I made a little “pish” sound, and a bird with a black mask appeared right in front of me. Now that I know where to find him, I’ll look for him again when my walk takes me this way.

Further up the stream I came to a place where a large patch of gray willow grows and I spotted another little yellow bird as he darted into the willow leaves. Thinking I’d seen another yellowthroat, I pished again with my lips to see if he would come loser. Then he called to me from his hiding place (“wee-wee-wee-wee-see-see-weet!)

I recognize the song of the yellow warbler and he quickly appears on a branch in front of me. Oh, how pretty he is with his entire body in yellow with reddish-brown streaks on his breast and sides. I love seeing and hearing these little summer warblers and I welcome him to the valley before continuing on my way.

 

red-tailed hawk soaring overhead

Red-tailed hawk soaring overhead

A red-tailed hawk soars over my head and gives out her raspy territorial scream when she sees me. I give her a wave as I walk along and she sails off over the tree tops. The young red-tailed hawks have fledged but I haven’t seen them yet. I can hear two young hawks giving their begging calls in the distant woods in the early morning, and with luck I’ll see them within the next few days as they become stronger and fly forth.

Back at the house I feel something crawling on the back of my hand and sure enough—a tick. It’s so important to remember to use the tick spray from late March to mid-December. That’s when the ticks are active and their bite can cause lots of problems for folks who like to spend time outdoors.

The sunrise on the marsh pond (opening photo above) was an extra bonus on my Tuesday morning walk. I paused to watch two different wood duck families on the still water pond. The female wood ducks have their baby ducklings in tow and they’re so cute to watch. Most years there are 8 to 10 little ducklings following their mother but the most I’ve seen this year is 6. Many of the female wood ducks have only 2 to 4 little downy ducklings this year.

It seems a little early in the summer to see a hummingbird moth but there was one hovering about the lilac blossoms late this afternoon. They are about the size of a bumblebee and look like a miniature humming Bird.

 

Naturally Yours,

Dan