Ah, February with all its mysteries has got me wondering what may come next.
The week started with more beautiful white snow that stuck to the black trees. It clung to every limb and branch and defined each tree with a personal touch that only snow can give. It came a couple of inches at a time each day for five days.
I’ve had plenty of exercise this week sweeping and shoveling, and there’s some discomfort in my shoulders and elbows. Oh well. No pain no gain. If I don’t move the snow off my paths, it gets packed down to ice, and I’d rather shovel a little snow than fall on the hard ice. Next to how many miles I’ve walked in my life, I’d like to know how much snow I’ve shoveled over the years.
Wednesday afternoon I watched a flock of 35 turkeys as they searched for weed seeds in a large weedy field. The snow was too deep for them to scratch through to the ground, so they walked along picking at the seed heads of the tall weeds. Burdock, velvet leaf, thistles and others are among the many kinds of weeds that provide food for wild birds in the winter, including turkeys. Like deer, turkeys will eat anything palatable, especially late in winter when food may become scarce. When there’s nothing much else to eat, turkeys will perch in the trees and eat the tender new leaf buds at the ends of the branches.
I spent a few moments on top of the ridge to take in one of my favorite views of the Kickapoo Valley. The landscape is a picture of total black and white. At that moment, I had a strong urge to cast my eyes on something GREEN. It’s been too long since the last bit of green faded away in late November. The black and white landscape is beautiful, of course, but I’m ready for the first green signs of spring.
It’s been quite a while since a wary crow has come to my bird feeders, but there are a couple of fearless crows that come to Organic Valley’s bird feeders. It’s a good chance to watch how they open seeds by holding a single sunflower seed with their feet and while using their large beaks to peck it open. This is a trait of birds in the corvidae family, which includes ravens, bluejays and their distant cousins, chickadees and titmice.
Fred, the large prairie fox squirrel, likes to look in the window at me. He’s been around for several years, and by now we know and trust each other. He knows I’m not going to chase him away or give him any grief. I know from past experience that squirrels can be very trusting as long as there’s something in it for them to eat. As a boy, I always had a dozen squirrels and chipmunks that would sit on my knee for a nut or sunflower seed. They trusted me and knew I wouldn’t harm them. This meant they sometimes would try to follow me into the house, which didn’t sit well with my mother or our house dog. These days I don’t have such a close relationship with the squirrels, but we understand each other and get along.
Friday, I spotted what I’d been looking for: a large patch of green. It was a bed of fresh water cress by a spring pond. The pond was surrounded by deep white snow and made the water cress appear even greener than green. It gave me new hope that spring isn’t so far off after all. I’ve been waiting for a bit of fresh cress. It’s the first taste of spring. You have to try it to know what I mean. Wow!
A first year red-tailed hawk perches high in a tree and enjoys the early morning sun. He looks quite comfortable, but I know he always has his eyes on the snow covered ground below. He watches for the slightest movement of a meadow vole that may appear from under the deep snow. With patience and a little luck, the hawk will find enough to eat before the sun goes down.
Life has become a little easier since the temperatures have gone up the past few days, but it’s still tough to catch a meal when the snow is deep. Most of the fist year hawks migrate further south for the winter. It’s easier to make a living where it isn’t so cold and snowy. If the young red-tailed hawk can make it through the next two months, his chances of surviving will become much better. I’m pulling for him.
Rain all day Sunday melted several inches of snow. The run off fills the tiny streams that eventually empty into the Kickapoo River. Mild temperatures are forecast for the coming week, which will mean more run-off. I hope the thaw is gradual. No one wants to see the River rise over its banks. I prefer that the seasons turn gradually and peacefully, and that spring gets here in its own sweet time.