The mildest winter ever continued this week with high temperatures around 40 degrees and lots of sunshine. It may not be the warmest winter here on record, but itís the warmest in my lifetime. Only a trace of snow remains on the landscape to remind us that itís still February, not March.
A frosty Wednesday morning walk took me near the old eagleís nest. Some of the bald eagles in the area are showing some signs of courtship, but the pair of eagles who occupy this nest have yet to show any interest. The very large nest must weigh a thousand pounds and sits at the top of a tall white pine tree. The top of the tree died several years ago, and there are no longer any live branches to hold the nest together. Each year I wonder if the eagleís nest will survive another season. The photo shows the nest has shifted to the right and is no longer level. If it falls, I hope it happens before the eagles return and not half way through the nesting season. Iím hoping the eagles will see that the old nest is tilting too much to use and decide to build a new one.
The tree stands at the edge of a wetland that is usually too wet to walk through, but is frozen hard enough to walk on now without getting wet. Itís the only time I get a chance to look around under the nest tree. Because there wasnít any snow, I was able to spot several objects that had fallen from the nest last summer. Peeking through the dry leaves and pine needles were the sun-bleached bones of several different animalsómuskrats, raccoons, skunks, cotton tailed rabbits, the tiny leg bones of a fawn and the breastbone and feathers from a young turkey. It didnít surprise me that the eagles brought so many different food items to the nest to feed their two hungry eaglets.
Even though the nest was only a quarter of a mile from a small river, I found no fish remains under the nest tree, which is odd considering the majority of the bald eagleís diet usually consists of fish.
My walk takes me along the river where I spotted something brown on an ice shelf along the banks. A muskrat was out looking for something to eat and nosing at something else on the ice. He really didnít seem to be very interested in the large frog that sat motionless in front of him. I had no way of knowing how the frog had gotten out on the ice. After all, itís a bit early to see frogs. I think maybe the muskrat had caught the frog and hauled it out on the ice, then decided he wasnít hungry enough to eat a frog. I watched the muskrat for quite a while before he spotted me and swam off up stream for some privacy.
I like to walk down Natureís trail early in the morning and in the evenings this time of year, because snowless, forty degree days make the deer ticks active, but colder morning temperatures keep the ticks at bay so I donít have to worry about them. There are several young, soft maple trees growing out of the far bank. They lean over the river and a couple of the trunks have been de-barked around the bottom. It had been neatly chewed off by a hungry beaver that needed something green and nutritious to eat. Beavers could easily fell a large tree if they needed it, but for now they were only interested in the tasty bark. I rarely see beaver. They stay pretty much to themselves and seem to be more active at night and on cloudy days. I always see signs of them, though, so I keep an eye out for them.
The other good reason to go for a walk at the start and end of the day are the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Iíve never seen a sunrise that I didnít greet reverently, or a sunset that didnít inspire me to give thanks for another day. Often Iíve been asked if there has ever been a time that I couldnít find something to write about. I answer that as long as I can get outside and feel the earth beneath me, my senses will find a world of topics to write about. Mother Earth always shares her wisdom with me.
Spring is definitely in the air. I hear the excited calls of a flock of Canada geese as they head north. A few water striders skip across the spring creek. I canít say Iíve ever seen water striders in February, and Iíve been seeing them off and on all winter. Woody stems of red osier dogwood are turning a beautiful dark red long before there will be any leaves. And, of course, itís always a sign of spring when you see chickens roaming the farm yard.
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