So many strange things are going on that I havenít experienced in my lifetime. This extraordinarily warm spring has been absolutely beautiful, yet oh so puzzling. Itís been so warm that weíre about a month ahead of a normal spring schedule.
Already, the lilac bushes are leafing out and there are tiny purple flower buds starting to appear. The boxelder, soft maple and chestnut trees are beginning to bloom. Daffodils and tulips are everywhere and the first bloodroots have shown their pretty white faces. Itís also the earliest Iíve ever seen the lawn mowers at work. Thereís already some talk that the morel mushrooms will appear much earlier this year. If they donít come until around the first of May, which is the normal time, it may be hard to find them because of all the new green ground cover that is coming up faster than usual.
I have to admit that I kinda like the way spring slowly develops, but this year itís been anything but slow. Not only have the spring peepers been singing at a feverish pitch, but all the frogs are singing. Iíve heard the bird-like song of gray tree frogs as well as the wood frogís hoarse, crackling call, the high trill of the American toad, and the deep rattle and clucking grunts of leopard frogs. All of this frog activity is way ahead of schedule, and it wouldnít be happening if it werenít for all the early insects. Some bats have been searching the night skies for insects, and the birds are switching their diets from seeds to insects that give them the extra vitamins and protein they will need through the nesting season.
I heard the ďtrailing chatterĒ of a yellow-shafted flicker in the orchard. He too is about a month early to return. The male robins are busy fighting each other for territorial boundaries, but I have yet to see a female robin. They should be along shortly.
The pussywillows are already gone and replaced with beautiful yellow-green blossoms. The dark green leaves of the bluebells are up 6 Ė 8 inches in the dark, rich soil of the river bottom. A gentle rain fell in the night, and the pasture seemed to turn lush green before my eyes.
Canada geese are courting in the marsh pond with lots of splashing, chasing and honking. A bold male swims quickly towards another male, his neck outstretched and his bill open for business. The beautiful wood ducks returned to the Kickapoo Valley this week, and the male woodies are wearing their finest spring attire. Speaking of spring finery, Pete the peacockís new feathers have to be the most colorful of all. He is the undisputed king of colorful birds and dares anyone to challenge him.
A little male kestrel has been hanging around in the area for about a week and I knew it was time to put up a new nesting box. The kestrel box was ready to go and all I had to do was nail it to a pole I had in mind. My good friend Andy held the long extension ladder in place while I climbed up and secured the box with a few nails 20 feet above the ground. The timing couldnít have been better, because the female kestrel had just shown up that morning and the pair were already playing courtship games. Within 5 minutes after getting the nesting box up, a pair of curious bluebirds flew up and checked it out. They quickly decided it was too much house for them and left. The kestrelís keen eye spotted the box and within 20 minutes both the little falcons were at the three and a half inch hole in the box and were seriously checking it out. The female ducked inside and came out a couple of minutes later and flew to the power line a few feet away. With a little luck, the pair will use the kestrel box to raise their new family of four or five young kestrels. The best part is that Iíll be able to watch the whole process from start to finish and my fingers are crossed that all will go well.
Sunday morning there was heavy dew on the grass, and I noticed that the meadow spiders had constructed their ghostly webs in the dead goldenrod flower heads left over from last summer. The dew-covered webs seemed to glow in the early morning sun, a sight I usually donít see until early May. I hope the tiny spiders know what they are doing and not jumping off to an early start too soon. After all, there will still be some cold weather to come, wonít there? Nothing is normal this spring, and nobody seems to know what will happen next. Weather prediction has become a game for the foolhardy.
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