We had another week of cloudy, chilly, wet weather and very little sunshine, but spring made a big push forward in spite of it. There was enough sun to dry the dead grass in the meadow, so I burned some of it off Tuesday night. It was a perfect evening for a burn after the wind died down around 6 p.m. I was finishing up at the far end of the meadow just before dark when the call of a whip-poor-will came from the pines behind me. As I watched the last tiny flames go out, I thought, “What a nice way to hear the first whip-poor-will of spring.” While walking back to the house in the darkness, I heard another whip-poor-will song across the road. I thought it interesting that they had returned the same day as the cliff swallows that I saw this morning. Since both of these birds are insect eaters, I doubt they would be back if there were no insects to catch and eat.
The old eagle’s nest that has been used by a pair of bald eagles for many years can be seen from the road. I always slow down when passing by so I can get a glimpse of the eagles. But this year, the pair decided against the old nest and chose instead to build a new nest upriver. It’s kinda sad that they won’t be there in the spring, but the old nest just didn’t look safe anymore. Built in the top of a tall white pine, then added onto each year, the nest probably weighed about a ton. The problem is that the tree has died and with all that weight at the top, it could fall over anytime. Maybe the eagles sensed that this might happen. So I was surprised when I saw a large bird perched in the nest when I approached it Monday morning. The new tenant turned out to be a Canada goose that seemed to like the view from up there. I don’t think the goose is a female, just a lonely male who had found a nice place to spend some time while he waits for his mate to hatch the eggs she is sitting on in a nest hidden in the marsh below.
I looked for skunk cabbage about a week ago in a place near the river, but no sign of it yet. It’s always one of the very first plants to show up in the spring but it’s very late this year. I checked for it again on Tuesday morning and, sure enough, there it was, already eight inches tall. The skunk cabbage was making up for lost time and, like the grass in the pasture, is turning greener with each passing day.
A large bird cast a shadow overhead. I looked up to see yet another beautiful osprey following the river. Signs of spring are all around me, at my feet and in the sky, and the sounds echo in my head for hours after I hear them.
The little kestrel is still busy providing for his mate. He has brought her another snake for her breakfast and she holds tight while standing on the power line. Even though it has been cold and rainy, Nature still provides for those in need. A handsome male barred owl is out hunting for food to take back to his mate. It’s mid-day, and he watches the grass below for a nice fat vole or unsuspecting snake.
It’s the first of May, and I don’t recall bloodroot ever blooming so late. They bloomed overnight Tuesday, dotting the hillsides with their showy white flower faces by Wednesday morning. These delicate flowers only last a few days, and even less if it rains hard.
The week started with four rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeder. By the end of the week, there were over twenty. How truly nice it is to hear the males’ sweet songs again. I caught a picture of a female grosbeak as she ate sunflower seeds at the feeder at Organic Valley headquarters. Beautiful pink hyacinths just outside the front door greet Organic Valley employees as they come to work. What a nice way to start the work day.
Many of the wild ducks that were in the valley last week have either moved on or started nesting. I was happy to see a pair of American shovelers feeding in a shallow marsh pond on Thursday. These puddle ducks are about the size of a wild mallard, but they have a large, long, flattened awkward-looking bill that they use for scooping up mud and aquatic plants. The female shoveler has the same plumage as the female mallard, and the male has a dark green head and neck with a white breast and chestnut flanks. I usually don’t see these ducks in the Kickapoo Valley in the summer, so I hope they decide to stick around.
Warm southerly breezes brought the orioles in on Friday, and I was ready for them with sliced orange halves on the window sills and tree branches. By Sunday, they had already gone through a half dozen juicy oranges. I love to have the colorful orioles in the yard again. Seems they’ve been gone forever. It sometimes seems that the more colorful the bird is, the prettier the song, and the song of the oriole is one of my favorites.
Today I spotted a nice large patch of marsh marigolds making a lovely bed of yellow near a freshwater spring. There was no sign of them only a week ago, and now they are up and in full bloom already. Wow, what a difference a week can make this time of year.