In typical early Spring fashion, this week's weather has been quite different than the week before. Although it hasn't been uncomfortably cold, it has been wet and windy. The cool temps and a little rain is something I can deal with, but the wind will always be the hardest element for me to make peace with.
I wasn't surprised to see a couple of Turkey vultures as they soared high over the treetops. They must figure it's going to stay warm enough that their featherless heads won't freeze. That's one of the reasons they migrate south to warmer climates in the fall. They are year-round residents for the southern states, but in Wisconsin they are one of the birds that return in Spring. The vultures are Nature's aerial clean-up crew. They soar for hours on long, black wings, surveying the ground below for carrion, their favorite menu item. If it's dead, it's breakfast.
When I start seeing single male Red-tailed hawks sitting alone in the trees along the roadsides, it tells me the females are probably sitting on eggs. The adult hawks sit patiently and watch the grass below for a meadow vole to appear. Now he must catch enough for himself as well as for his mate back at the nest. Soon he will have to catch enough food to feed the whole family when the eggs hatch, so he spends most of his daylight hours hunting.
On wings of power and grace, he swoops through the blue morning sky. He is the elite of feathers and speed; he is the Peregrine falcon. As I watch a flock of spring Mallard ducks circle over the open water, they are suddenly startled and frantically scatter in different directions. The Peregrine swoops from high in the blue morning sky and is only a blur as he dives down through the panic-stricken ducks. With his blinding speed, he has caught the wild ducks by surprise, and as he passes through the flock he would have no trouble raking one of them with a needle-sharp hind talon. A blow like that could easily bring a duck to the ground, where the powerful falcon would quickly dispatch his prey. When the falcon takes wing, all the other birds move out of his way, and show their respect for his powerful speed and agility.
Thanks to the efforts and hard work by many falconers and other wildlife specialists, the once endangered Peregrine is making a comeback from the brink of extinction. Once again the skies above the upper Mississippi River bluffs is the domain of the fastest bird of prey in the world.
The recent cooler weather has given those who tap maple trees another chance to collect some sweet sap. When the night-time temperatures once again drop below freezing, the maple sap will be encouraged to start dripping from the taps by day. It's an example of what the combination of hard work and fun can produce—Maple syrup! There are few better ways to enjoy those fickle March days than to make Maple syrup—the rewards are priceless.
With a loud squawk, the Great Blue heron announces he has seen me as he passes high over the house. He is one of only a few herons I've seen so far this spring. They always seem to know when it's time for the ice to melt on the ponds and backwaters where they hunt for frogs and small fishes. They don't return to the North Country until they know they will have a place to find food.
Things around here are taking their sweet time warming up and turning green, proving once again that it isn't Spring until it's time. Sunday morning, the ground was white with snow, as winter made a final (maybe) statement. It is short-lived, as the morning sun melts away the snow until all that remains is a chilly memory. Everyone likes to have some adventure in life, and this is the most adventurous time of the year. It's no wonder that for so many of us, our favorite season is Spring.
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