It never ceases to amaze me how fast the wild plants grow when the weather turns wet and warm. The tall Cow parsnip’s huge white flower tops are already going to seed and so is the wild yellow poison parsnip. One of my favorite tall plants is the unique looking Angelica—a tall purple/green stem with several globed flower heads. When in flower, it has a greenish beauty all its own. These tall grassland plants make great perches for blackbirds, finches, bobolinks, song sparrows and other grassland birds.
The still-water ponds and backwaters of the Kickapoo Valley are homes for many frogs and turtles. Many of the turtles are climbing out of the water and searching for some nice sandy soil to lay their eggs. This morning while walking, I came across a beautiful Snapping turtle fifteen yards from water and still wet. These fascinating aquatic reptiles may be slow on land, but they always seem to know where they are going.
The wild birds have been making more trips to the bird feeders lately. The males are showing up with their mates—cardinals and Rose-breasted grosbeaks are now together at the bird feeders. It tells me that their young are still in the nests but are large enough to be left alone for short periods. Soon the adults will bring the new fledglings to the feeders.
In the corner of the lush green pasture, a horse is relaxing in the shade of a cottonwood tree. The recent rains have made his dark coat clean and slick. The White-tailed deer are also showing the effects of the cleansing rain. It helps them shed the remainder of their winter guard hairs. The summer deer are now wearing cinnamon coats. A single doe is standing at the edge of the hayfield—she has left her fawns in a secret hiding place and will spend the day foraging on her own. She will return to her concealed fawns towards the end of the day to feed them and move them.
A curious catbird is following me as I walk along a brushy fence row. He “meows” at me as he stays hidden in the leaves, but I can catch a glimpse of him from time to time as he flies ahead of me. It’s always nice to be noticed.
A huge sumac grows tall and lush at the end of the fencerow. The single plant, with many woody trunks, covers an area twenty yards wide. The cone-shaped flower heads are neatly arranged in an artistic setting with light green flowers and dark green leaves. One of Nature’s most beneficial plants, the sumac serves the land well.
Everywhere I walk I can feel the watchful eyes of the birds. A fearless little yellow bird is perching only ten feet from me. The Blue-winged warbler turns his head from side to side as he checks me out, then disappears into the thicket. You never know who might appear from the thick green bushes. No sooner had the little warbler disappeared when a sassy, spotted-breasted Brown thrasher appeared. He’s about the size of a robin, with yellow eyes and a long brown tail that makes him look bigger than he really is.
I have seen several new fledglings the past couple of days. Chunky little Red-winged blackbirds, whose feathers aren’t quite fully grown, are trying their wings. Their first feeble flights are short and shaky, but they will catch on fast. The young crows can fly and their loud begging “caws” may be heard as they follow their parents around the valley. Their bright red mouths open wide to receive anything that mom or dad stuffs into it. Young crows are very demanding and seem to be hungry all the time. It may take a couple of weeks, but they will learn to fend for themselves.
A rather dingy looking female Downy woodpecker came to the bird feeder today. Her white breast was brownish-yellow from spending the past several weeks in her nest. There isn’t much room inside that hole in tree branch and it takes its toll on her feathers. She flies up to a nearby tree trunk and finds a crack in the bark that would hold the sunflower seed while she pecks it open with her sharp beak. As soon as the seed is free she stuffs it into the mouth of her waiting fledgling. I’m always impressed with how well newly fledged woodpeckers can fly.
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