A red fox surprises me with a rare out-in-the-open sighting

A red fox surprises me with a rare out-in-the-open sighting

We finally got a reprieve from the cold this week, and that brought smiles to a lot of faces. The effects of a 20-30 degree day were immediately felt, especially at the wood stove. Instead of banking the nighttime stove with five or six pieces of wood, now two or three will last till morning. The warm weather means a lot less work, especially carrying firewood into the house. It also means carrying a lot less water from the spring. When the stove doesn’t have to stay so hot, a lot less water boils away. I couldn’t live here in the winter if I didn’t keep plenty of moisture in the air.

The first spring-like weather has continued through the week with highs in the forties on Sunday and in the fifties on Monday. The landscape has been covered with white for far too long and it’s good to see it melting away. A few more days of this warm weather and the snow-covered country side will look a lot less like winter.

Weighing in at a ton or more, the eagle's nest may topple soon with the dead tree

Weighing in at a ton or more, the eagle’s nest may topple soon with the dead tree

I’ve been watching the eagle’s nest over near the Pine River and hadn’t seen an eagle in it until today. The huge old nest made her look small in comparison. If the eagles decide to use the old nest (which they didn’t last year), it could be risky. The nest must weigh a ton and is placed in the top branches of a dead white pine tree. Surely those dead branches can’t hold much more weight. The adult eagles spend a lot of time in the early spring carrying large sticks to add to their nest. Each year the nest gets taller and taller and heavier and heavier so I’m hoping the eagles build another home soon. This female eagle was standing in the nest which tells me she doesn’t have any eggs to sit down low over to keep them warm. Her mate was perched in a tree a quarter-mile downstream keeping a sharp eye on things.

Many of the area farmers are cleaning up manure from the livestock winter shelters. They know too well that the fields can get pretty muddy when they warm up, so the farmers try to get as much manure on the fields before the ground starts to thaw. A flock of crows takes advantage of this new place to find bits of corn and grain. Crows are survivors because of their resourcefulness at finding food.

Ice flowing out of rock outcroppings is as beautiful as anything in the Kickapoo winter landscape

Ice flowing out of rock outcroppings is as beautiful as anything in the Kickapoo winter landscape

I’ve been seeing some pretty ice falls this spring; it’s cool how something as natural as frozen water can look so beautiful. Such pretty shades of blue, green and sometimes red icicles, some 6-10 feet long and longer, slowly dripping down over a rock outcropping. Speaking of dripping, the maple sap should start running with the coming of the warm weather. It will be interesting to see how long the maple syrup season lasts this year. It’s early enough to get a good run if the weather holds. The idea is to collect sap from the trees until the branches start to bud, after which the syrup can taste bitter or sour. I still like to join together with friends from time to time and enjoy some good conversation as we watch the sap boil away. Collecting maple sap is no longer a part of my spring at my place. You might say I’m all tapped out.

Another beautiful sunrise Friday morning and the wild turkeys are out early, scratching in the snow for bits of corn and weed seeds. Turkeys are a lot like crows in that they are very  good at finding food. If they can’t find enough to eat on the ground, they will fly up into the trees and eat the tiny new leaf buds. Seems to me it would be improbable  for turkeys to starve to death as long as they are able to fly.

It's so nice to watch the graceful fox hunt in the snowy field

It’s so nice to watch the graceful fox hunt in the snowy field

Sunday was a beautiful spring day, a sunny warm day near 50 degrees and full of promise that the lion has finally gone away. While driving along the country roads, I’m always on the lookout for any sign of wildlife. I just can’t help it. This morning I was watching closely for the first pussy willows, but nothing yet. I’ve also had it in mind to watch for a fox. Truth is, I haven’t seen a fox all winter, and it sure would be nice to get a look at one. Well, good things come to those who wait and I didn’t have to wait too long. I soon passed a large, snow-covered hayfield with a beautiful red fox standing in the middle. My face must have flushed almost as red as the fox—it’s always a rush to see one. He was only about 100 yards away, and too busy hunting for voles to pay much attention to me. I felt very lucky that I was able to get such a good look at him for a couple of minutes before I drove off and let him continue to do his thing. As I drove along, my mind’s eye kept seeing the fox’s lovely plush red/orange fur with a beautiful long fluffy tail and those long narrow black legs. I figured my “fox fix” would last for quite a while and I felt satisfied that I’d finally seen one.

My home welcomes the coming thaw

My home welcomes the coming thaw

The old school-house always looks its shabbiest just after the snow melts in the spring so I thought maybe I should get a picture before the snow melts. From now on I’ll be watching for the first signs of anything green to appear. Those first signs of color that begin to add life to my place here in this little valley. Till then, I’ll enjoy the season’s changes one day at a time and try to be satisfied with each moment.

Naturally yours,

Dan