I heard the spring song of a chickadee today. He told me that he was feeling spring in his heart, and he just had to sing about it. It’s been more like winter here than spring, and the first half of March has been agonizingly on the side of winter. Spring has been put on hold. We’ve become a little spoiled after having early springs the past few years, and we have forgotten what it takes to be patient. The truth is, March has been more like normal here than it has for several years, and that can’t be a bad thing.
I was beginning to wonder if I would see the first red-winged blackbird before I saw a killdeer. That was Tuesday, and I have yet to see a red-winged blackbird. But in a snow-covered pasture where I often see a killdeer in the early spring, I see one. He’s there with a couple of his buddies, and they stand out like sore thumbs on the frozen ground. I pull over and roll down the window to get a few pictures. Occasionally, one of them runs quickly across the snow calling, “killdeer, killdeer!” Their spring calls set the tone for the rest of my day.
Snow fell, overnight, less than two inches of very wet, white sleet from the south that stuck to very tree. Even though I long to see a green landscape, and can’t get over how beautiful the black and white landscape looked this morning.
I’ve seen a few bluebirds, but not nearly as many as I would have expected by mid-March. I spotted five male bluebirds perched on a power line, their bright orange breasts lined up in a row. With them, but sitting a little apart, was a single pretty female. She reminded me I still have a few bluebird houses to clean out and a few new ones to put up.
Wednesday’s weather was pretty much more of the same, but the mercury was a little bit above freezing and the snow slowly melted. Today’s sign of spring came from under the brush pile when a woodchuck made his first appearance. He must have gotten tired of sleeping all winter and felt the pangs of hunger. He picked a good day to make his first appearance, because I had just thrown down some cracked corn for the juncos right where he was. He was in pretty good shape considering he hadn’t eaten for four months, although he was a little on the thin side.
The beavers have spring fever and have been busy planning their next dam. I’ve kept an eye out for them along the river banks, but rarely seen them. It seems more likely to see a busy beaver on a cloudy day rather than a sunny one, but I can see where they have been. I’ve noticed several large cottonwood trees this week that the beavers have gnawed and a couple others that had been felled. It’s quite amazing that they wouldn’t give a second thought to chewing down such a large tree. Often there are a couple of bushels of wood chips next to the tree they are working on. I’ll keep watching for those busy beavers near the pond, even though there is a layer of thin ice on it.
Today I figured the beavers were safe and warm in their stick lodge under the ice but I looked it over from a distance anyway. When I first saw something brown moving on the ice, I thought it might be a beaver, but it was too small. I watched the dark brown mink for quite a while as he searched around the beaver lodge for a mouse or a vole. He looked very intent on finding his prey as he scurried across the thin ice, nose down, looking for the scent that would lead him to a meal. If I hadn’t been looking for the beavers, I wouldn’t have seen the mink. You never know what you might see until you look.
A saw a fat rabbit under Organic Valley’s bird feeder on Thursday morning. I’m sure he’s done pretty well for himself all winter, because it shows. As long as there is a little bird seed on the side when it gets cold, the bunny should have few ill effects from the long winter. The first litter of rabbit kits are probably just being born in some nice, fur-lined burrow in the ground.
There are all sorts of tracks along the banks of the Kickapoo River in early spring. I never know what I’ll see. I spotted a place on a snow covered bank where it looked like an otter had slid into the moving water. I watched for a while, but the otter must have gone the other way, because I never saw him. Instead, a small raccoon, soaking wet, came snooping along the stream bank. He looked pretty skinny and very hungry, but he was out there doing what it takes to survive. He was sticking his nose under the banks and turning over stones trying to find anything to satisfy his hunger.