Spring is busting out all over this week, with temperatures in the mid-50s. Up and down the Kickapoo Valley, the songs of spring peepers can be heard every night. One of these tiny tree frogs could sit comfortably on the face of a dime, and is identified by a black "x" on its back. As small as they are, their presence is unmistakable, as thousands of them can be heard peeping from the wetlands. The singing of the frogs is a sign of spring that everyone around here can relate to. You can't drive far at night before passing near a wetland with spring peepers. In a month or so, when the chorus of peeper music reaches an audible peak, it will sound like the whole valley is alive with frogs.
Where a trout stream meanders through an open pasture, there are a few places where the water has eroded the stream banks. Here, a male kingfisher inspects a softball-sized hole in the mud bank. It's the same hold the Kingfishers nested in last year. It's good to know that if all goes well, they will raise another family this year.
Some Phoebes have returned to the area, although I have yet to hear one down at my place. They are the first flycatchers to return each spring. They always seem to know when there are enough flying insects around to eat. The Brown bats too are beginning to appear after sunset, to search the night skies for what few flying insects they can find. If the weather gets too cold, they have the option to hide out until it warms up again.
Friday was cloudy and 50 degrees with some light rain. The weather didn't seem to bother a pair of Turkey vultures who circled high over the river valley. It's the first time I've seen them this spring. Their huge, dark wings will carry them, gliding, for hours as they search the ground far below for a meal of carrion. Since they have no feathers on their heads to keep them warm, the vultures are usually pretty careful to not come north too soon.
The weather here has been nice but not particularly warm—wearing a light jacket in the mornings, a heavy sweatshirt for the afternoon. But though it's getting down into the twenties at night, the signs of spring are undeterred. Last night at ten it was 30 degrees, cold enough that I could see my breath. Yet, the songs of the peepers still came loud from the marsh—proving that a little chilly weather wasn't going to make a difference on this night.
From about half way up my side of the valley, I have an excellent eye-level view of a Red-tailed hawk's nest about 250 yards away on the other side. It was chilly and raining a bit after my morning walk, but I pulled my coat up around my neck and stopped to see how I stopped to see how Mama Redtail is doing. She sits low over her clutch of eggs (there must be two or three eggs). I'll be able to watch her a little each day, until the trees leaf out in about a month.
By mid-afternoon it was sunny and warmer. While raking up debris in the garden, I noticed the first Garden snake of spring slithering across the driveway. Oh, a warm spring day brings everyone out! I wouldn't be surprised if there were turtles basking in the sun along the river.
These spring days are busy and far too short to get everything done. By bedtime I was tuckered out, but before I hit the sack I discovered one more sign of spring. A deer tick had imbedded herself behind my lower left shoulder. Ticks are nothing new, but this one was hard to reach. I dispatched her with a good tweezers, a mirror and some patience. I'm glad I found her when I did. I guess it's not too early to be prudent with daily tick checks. Oh spring!
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