There are only about 400 whooping cranes left--many in captive-breeding programs like  at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin

There are only about 400 whooping cranes left–many in captive-breeding programs like at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin

It was a week of pretty nice weather, sunny and warm with a gentle breeze to take the edge off the heat. It started to get a little uncomfortable on Tuesday, when the temperature rose to around ninety degrees and there was barely a breeze until around 6 p.m. When the temperature rises to ninety degrees or hotter, the folks who live in the valley don’t get those nice breezes like the folks who live up on the ridge. In the winter, though, I’d rather be living in the valley when the (not so nice) cold wind blows across the ridge, so I guess it all evens out.

The young red-tailed hawk crash-lands in a nearby tree as it develops its pilot skills

The young red-tailed hawk crash-lands in a nearby tree as it develops its pilot skills

Fledgling birds are still appearing across the landscape, and I keep my eyes open for new sightings; keeping my ears open often leads to a sighting. This morning I heard the begging calls from a young crow that had recently fledged. The parent birds will feed young crows until they are experienced enough to find their own food. I was lucky on Wednesday when I saw a young red-tailed hawk make his first flight. He was doing just fine and flew about a hundred yards before trying to land in a large tree. That first flight may be pretty good but the first landing may not be so pretty. This young hawk hung upside down for a couple of minutes before righting himself to an up-right position. The young hawks have a lot to learn if they are going to survive in the world. learning how to land is the least of their challenges; the majority of first-year hawks will migrate south for the winter, but only about a quarter of them will live to return in the spring. Note the chocolate-brown breast feathers and brown tail which is the plumage of the first year red-tailed hawks.

The sandhill crane family is still doing fine and the single young crane is a little over half-grown. It will be a while before he is able to fly, because his wing feathers must grow all the way in before he can lift himself off the ground.

Blue vervain is one of Wisconsin's most beautiful native flowers

Blue verlaine is one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful native flowers

Saturday we made a quick stop to visit the folds at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin. It’s always an inspirational place to visit. We were greeted by the loud bugling from a beautiful pair of whooping cranes. I then took a walk around the grounds, most of which are reserved for native prairie plants. It’s always nice to get a closer look at some of my favorite flowers, one being the pretty blue verlaine. The orange flowers of the butterfly weed are the brightest orange of any of the wild flowers. You can’t miss them when they are in bloom only a foot or two off the ground. Being a native milkweed, the butterfly weed is very beneficial to butterflies, especially the monarchs.

The ruby-throated hummingbird eats twice its body weight every day

The ruby-throated hummingbird eats twice its body weight every day

My favorite time to pick black raspberries is a cool damp morning when the air is fresh and the bird’s songs are pure. It’s not a great year for the sweet berries but it’s a good one and I picked enough for my favorite desert: blackcap pie. First, a small bowl of berries with fresh, sweet Organic Valley cream poured over them, which is my second-favorite desert. While walking to the house, a pretty little ruby-throated hummingbird stopped to eye me over. He seemed to be interested in what I had in the ice cream pail, but only for a few seconds, then, zoom!, he was gone. When another hummer hovered around my head I wondered why I was getting all the attention. Then I remembered that I was wearing a red hat, the hummingbird’s favorite color.

The cold winter killed most of the bee balm which I had planted for the hummingbirds, but, to my surprise, it reappeared in the phlox. The little hummers are also happy that there are lots of their favorite red flowers to visit. They also like the taste of the lavender flowers of the summer phlox, which is just now starting to bloom. I also noticed a few bright orange flowers on the red-runner bean vines that grow up the south side of the house. The old woodchuck chewed some of the bean vines back a few weeks ago but they are making a comeback. The woodchuck has been selective about what flowers he eats and now he seems to prefer the tall sunflowers. They’re not so tall after woody knocks them down to get at the tasty leaves.

The weather has been cooler this past couple of days and it’s much better for sleeping. The gardens are in need of water, which means carrying five-gallon pails from the spring. It’s an easier job when it isn’t so hot and humid; I almost enjoy doing it. Almost.

Naturally yours,

Dan