By my estimation, this week has brought the very best that spring has to offer. It started Wednesday morning, after a night with heavy frost where the temperature dipped to 25 degrees. The day was beautiful and warm, and I knew this would be the week of "leaf-out" — when the majority of the trees burst forth in lush canopies of green. The warm sun coaxed the dandelions to bloom and cover the lawn with a blanket of bright yellow. Thousands of bees and other insects take advantage of the nectar provided by the pretty yellow flowers.
While taking a walk along the grassy bank of the creek, I saw a little Northern water thrush fly up from the rocks and babbling water of the stream. This little member of the family of wood warblers is about the size of a bluebird, but the similarities end there. The water thrush has light umber plumage, brown streaks across its white flanks, and a showy yellow-green breast. Its tail constantly teeters up and down as it searches under rocks and leaves for aquatic insects. At times the bird may completely immerse itself in the stream as it forages, and it may even catch minnows and tadpoles. The Coulee region of Southwest Wisconsin is the southern boundary of the water thrush's habitat.
Wednesday night brought a bright moon, and the first songs of the whippoorwills. That night I sat on the back porch and listened to their haunting songs in the cool night air. Last year only one returned to this valley, but this year there are two. With luck they will find this place to be a peaceful one and they will stay for the summer.
Thursday started with the lovely calls of the rain-barrel birds (wood thrushes). As I did the morning chores I was able to discern three different wood thrushes singing from the dense woods around me. That night I enjoyed a meal of fresh yellow morel mushrooms fried in Organic Valley butter.
Friday, the songs of another bird were added to the morning chorus. The orioles are back! At first I heard them, and suddenly a gorgeous orange and black male flew across the yard right over me. His striking orange feathers reminded me that they have a taste for sliced oranges, so I wasted no time placing four orange halves at the bird feeders. Within five minutes the orioles were at the feeders, pecking at the pulp of the tasty fruit.
I'm amazed at how colorful the bird feeders are these days. At any one time there may be a mixture of bright yellow goldfinches, rose-breasted grosbeaks, orioles, red-winged blackbirds, house finches, blue jays, and cardinals — not to mention nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, song sparrow, cow birds, chipping sparrows and others. Wow! Seeing the show and hearing their wonderful songs reminds me why I live here.
Saturday brought spring's first tiny jeweled hummingbird. Seeing the first one always takes my breath away. He hovered in front of me for a long moment, and I heard the soft hum of his quick little wings.
A timely spring thunderstorm moved slowly into the valley at sunset, turning the sky a misty yellow and giving all that was new and green an ominous glow. After dusk, the sky was filled with lightning and rain, and frog music could be heard above the thunder, as though the rain made them sing for joy.
Yes, this is one of my favorite weeks of the year, filled to the brim with the sights and sounds of mother earth.
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