Red-winged Blackbirds

moon phase Week of 04/29/2007 Good days for planting carrots, beets, onions, turnips and other root crops.

Spring has returned again to the Kickapoo Valley, and last week's visit of winter has vanished like the snow. The past couple of nights dipped just below freezing, but the tiny spring peepers still sang boldly until the temperatures got cold enough to send them under cover.

Red-winged Blackbirds

Tuesday, half an hour after sunset, I stood in the yard and watched a little Brown bat flutter by. It was 25 degrees and I could see my breath; I had on a warm jacket and gloves. Seeing a bat in these conditions was strange, especially since there was 3-4 inches of snow on the ground. This isn't the first time I've seen a bat in cold weather in the bast few years. Today a bat flew over may head at 11:30 am, in the bright sunshine at 65 degrees. That's kind of unusual too, but not unheard of.

Several beautiful male Red-winged blackbirds have paid a visit to the bird feeders this past week. They only stopped for a free handout because of the cold, snowy weather, but that's fine with me. The cold weather can bring some good things, and besides, I love to see and hear them. Wednesday came the bubbly song of the first cowbird. He too likes the sunflower seeds at the feeders, and he isn't shy when it comes to finding a place to eat. Several tiny Chipping sparrows and Song sparrows have showed up the past couple of days. They add to the growing chorus of early morning bird songs, and I enjoy having more sparrow activity in the yard.

The Mourning doves have paired up and already the female sits on her small stick nest, keeping her two eggs warm. The doves seem to prefer to build their nests in one of the numerous cedar trees in the valley. Their shabby little stick nest is haphazardly arranged on a hidden branch 5 or 6 feet off the ground.

I talked to a couple different people who told me they had House finches building nests somewhere on the outside of their homes. These colorful, non-native finches seem to pick nesting places that are close to people. They prefer a porch light or a potted plant near the door of your house, to a tree or shrub.

If you haven't cleaned out your bluebird and wren houses yet, don't worry, there's still time—but you better get at it. Some of the houses at my place are in total disrepair from years of weathering, so I put out four brand new ones yesterday. I know that the coming nice weather will bring more Bluebirds, and I want to be ready for them!

The resident pair of Red-tailed hawks are acting strangely. I've been watching the same couple do their spring courtship for the past seven years. Every spring they start visiting their nest in late February or early March, carrying sticks and doing repairs. By the second or third week of March, things pick up and they start mating, so that by the end of March she could be sitting on a clutch of eggs.

This spring, the hawks started right on schedule—the last week of February—and worked on their nest until mid March, but then they both disappeared. I didn't see either bird for over two weeks, which really had me puzzled because it's never happened before. Today at mid-morning, I saw a pair of Red-tails soaring high above the valley. From out of nowhere, there they were, just like they'd never left. I watched them dive down across the valley, one behind the other, to land in the nesting tree. Maybe things will continue as normal, or maybe not—it's hard to predict anything with consistency these days. I didn't realize how much I'd miss seeing the hawks each day until they were gone. I'm very happy they are back, and I hope they stay.

Usually there's a woodchuck who shows up for a couple of weeks each spring. This year there are two, grazing on the new shoots of grass in the yard. They're holed up under the board pile next to the shed. The problem is that two woodchucks spotted may mean 5 or 6 around total, if there are young ones. Woodchucks and gardens don't go together well—ugh!

Naturally yours,
Dan

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