Heavy April snow completely burdens the pine and underbrush

Heavy April snow completely burdens the pine and underbrush

Spring went into a stall this week. If you didn’t know better you would think it was the first week of March. It’s been a little colder than we’d like and maybe a little wetter, too. It rained pretty steady through Friday night with lots of thunder, lightning and some good-sized hail. The sound of the hail on a metal roof can drown out the baseball game on the radio. It was quite a racket, but at least I was safe, warm and dry inside. The hail was about the size of chick peas, but there were reports of hickory nut-sized hail in the area. Most wild animals and birds head for cover when the hail comes, but what about birds like ducks and geese who may be sitting on open water when it comes? About all they can do is fold their wings over their backs and tuck their heads underneath.

By Friday, the ice on the marsh pond was getting thin, but a flock of ring-billed gulls had found a couple of dead fish to pick at. The ice was gone by Sunday, and so were the Gulls.

Surely spring is here when the green comma arrives to brighten the days

Surely spring is here when the green comma arrives to brighten the days

The sun made a brief appearance Friday morning so I thought it would be a good time to split a few blocks of firewood. I no sooner raised the maul above my head when a butterfly lit on the ground next to me. Splitting firewood isn’t much of a spring sign, but a pretty green comma was. I always get a little shot of spring fever when I see the first butterflies of spring.

Tired of snow, but I'll live with it when it's this beautiful

Tired of snow, but I’ll live with it when it’s this beautiful

The weatherman said there was a chance of 1 or 2 inches of snow Saturday night. When I looked out the window the next morning I was a bit surprised to see everything covered with 5 to 6 inches of heavy, wet snow. It was the first time all winter we got wet snow—it’s been so cold. Now the landscape had turned to winter again. I have to admit it was a beautiful sight but a little disheartening when you have to step back into winter. I figured there was no use complaining so I did some shoveling before going out with the camera for some snap-shots of the April snow.

Beautiful as a painting, the cardinal perches on snowy April branches

Beautiful as a painting, this female cardinal perches on snowy April branches

A female cardinal looked quite comfortable sitting on a snow covered branch; after all, that’s what she did all winter. The winter birds know how to take care of themselves after an April snow storm, but the Robins, who were migrating through, didn’t seem to know where to go. The only place to stand clear of snow was where the snow plow had cleaned it off the road. Around mid-morning I drove down to the marsh for a look around. The marsh is beautiful after a wet snow and I wanted to capture some of it with the camera before it all melted away. I spotted three Canada geese lounging on a snow-covered shoreline. They probably had a long night and were just taking it easy. One Canada goose pretty much looks like another, but, amazingly, one of these geese had orange legs. Canada geese have black legs and this was the first one I have ever seen with orange legs. A total mystery.

This harrier is looking for food over the snowy marsh

This harrier is looking for food over the snowy marsh

My attention was drawn to a pair of wood ducks that flew up from the shallow water and passed right over my head. They had been startled by a long-winged hawk that flew low over the marsh searching for something to eat. A beautiful long-tailed female marsh hawk is a rare sighting these days, but I knew it wasn’t rare enough for the wood ducks. The marsh hawk’s (harrier) favorite food is the meadow voles, but with so much snow on the ground the vole is an elusive target. The wood ducks must have looked enticing. The hawk was in view for only a few moments, then gone.

Finally, I spot a beaver along the Kickapoo

Finally, I spot a beaver along the Kickapoo

The untimely snowfall may have let a little air out of our spring balloon but it was the most beautiful snow of the year, so I couldn’t help but take some pictures. I stopped to get a better look at what turned out to be a song sparrow who was singing his heart out from a lofty branch in a snow-covered bush. That’s when I saw a beaver climbing out of the river before it rested for a while on the bank. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get a picture of a beaver in the river but I guess patience paid off. Like so many of my observations, it’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time.

The red-winged blackbirds are back and many of the males are establishing their territories in the cattail marsh. He will find a favorite perch on a cattail and sing out his spring song while displaying his beautiful red wing patches – “kohk-la-ree, konk-la-ree!”

The white tailed deer have banded together in groups since the snow came. You might say that they are not out of the woods yet when it comes to finding food—I counted a total of 88 deer on the six-mile drive from La Farge to Viola along the river road. Warmer weather is promised for next week, so spring should be back on track again. There is no better time to be outside rubbing shoulders with Mother Nature. It’s such an exciting time to do whatever comes naturally, so catch the fever and let spring come into your life; be outside.

Naturally yours,

Dan