Before I could back the car out of the driveway at 6 am this morning, I first had to scrape the frosty ice off the windshield. It was odd that there was ice this morning, since it was warm and raining at sunset last night. The temperature had dropped to 30 degrees after the clouds moved out during the night.
The green grass in the yard and meadow is constantly growing and making a steady climb to the sky. The red-breasted male Robins keep a close eye on each other as they hop around the grassy yard. They have already established their small nesting territories, and there's heck to pay if they cross each other's boundaries. A brisk fight always breaks out with loud chattering and feathers flying. The same two robins seem to tolerate each other on neutral ground in the middle of the yard and garden, but still keep a close eye on each other. The testosterone is at the boiling point, and the females haven't even arrived yet.
I can't get over the intense color green growing over the landscape, and the bright yellow Forsythia shows its shockingly beautiful presence. They offer the season's first large splash of yellow, which seems to complement the new green surroundings. The bright white of the birch trees stands out in any season, and now they are shedding their old bark, showing the new tan bark underneath. The yellow and green flowers of the Pussy willows tell me where all the willow bushes are. Without their pretty spring blossoms, they would blend into the gray landscape.
At the edge of the yard, the lush green bunches of Bluebells are beginning to show their tiny blue flower buds, and in the woods are small stalks of Dutchman's breeches, their white flowers shaped like tiny pairs of pants. The male Red-tailed hawk is perched on a tree limb that overlooks the marsh. The female Redtail is on her nest, keeping her three eggs warm. She knows her mate is hunting and soon will bring her a nutritious breakfast. He may catch a meadow vole, snake or frog and fly up to the nest and offer it to his hungry "better half."
There is another large stick nest a half a mile away, high in a leafless oak tree in the forest tree line. It was a long ways away, but I could barely see a curious bump in the nest. The camera let me get a little closer look, so I could tell the bump was a gray-downed, Great Horned owl chick who was looking back at me. On a closer look I could just make out the fuzzy figure of a second three-week old owl. They are nearly full grown, but still need a couple of weeks to grow in their flight feathers. Their parents will stay hidden all day and will begin to hunt for food at dusk. By then, the youngsters in the nest will be very hungry, and start to sound out with their raspy begging calls, "Reeep-Reeep-Reeep-Reeep!"
The Sandhill cranes haven't started nesting yet, and can still be seen standing together in the hayfield. The Canada geese, on the other hand, are ahead of the game. The gander spends the day alone, patiently waiting for the goose to hatch her hidden clutch of 8 or 10 eggs.
The first little tree swallows are passing through the Kickapoo Valley. It's good to see these delicate little masters of the air as they hunt for flying insects along the river or in a farmyard. For me, they are one of the first signs of summer.
Several people have asked me if the morel mushrooms will come up early because of the warm, early spring. This is the first year that I can say that I'm not really sure. In years past, it didn't matter what the weather was like; the morels would always make their first appearance in the last week of April. This year is the warmest spring I've ever seen here, so I guess it wouldn't surprise me if these little mushroom treasures started showing up early.
I was never really sure what perfect conditions trigger the mushrooms to grow. The only thing that is environmentally consistent each year is the lengthening amount of sunlight each day. It could be what triggers them to grow at just the right time. They aren't mushrooms until it's time. It will be interesting to see if they really do come early and shoot holes in my theory. Ha! Get out and do some springtime exploring. You never know what you might find.
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