After a long, quiet winter, the music has finally begun. The whole world seems to be singing the melodies of spring, and each day more and more voices join in. The mornings are especially good for listening to the spring music. The songs of thousands of birds fill the air as the sun peeks up over the horizon. The countryside is filled with the voices of red-winged blackbirds and robins. The Sandhill cranes and Canada geese vocally rejoice at each new dawn, while the Tom turkeys gobble from the hillside pastures. Bluebirds sing about how nice their house is and woodpeckers drum out their rapid tunes on dead tree limbs. A Jack snipe winnows high above the marsh as he flies his looping sky dance. The wood ducks squeal as they fly up the river in pairs, and the hen mallards quack loudly to their mates. Several rooster pheasants crow to each other up and down the valley, and mourning doves coo their love songs from the cedar trees. Each morning all these sounds and many more can be heard all at once. All I have to do to hear this concert is to step outside.
This morning, the first yellow-shafted flicker sang his chattering song as the bright red males cardinals whistled from the tree tops. By the water's edge, a pussy willow sports fluffy white cat toes on its leafless branches. A Green heron perches in these branches, stealthily stalking a large leopard frog.
A bird about the size of a chicken, the Green heron doesn't return to this northern area until the threat of ice has passed. These herons depend on open water to find small fish, minnows, and frogs. Their stick nest will be built in the branches of a small tree, maybe a pine, by the end of April. Then their 4-5 pale green eggs will hatch in17 to 18 days. The young, being very nimble climbers, will hide in the branches of the nesting tree within a view days of hatching.
This small heron may fly up from along the bank and startle you if you are walking along a stream bank. He will fly along the stream ahead of you and drop down along the bank again. That's why at one time the Green heron was known as "fly up the creek."
Green herons tend to migrate at night and may travel in flocks. I once heard 20 to 30 of these little herons as they passed over in the night sky. I couldn't see them, but there is no mistaking their familiar voice - a grunting peu-ah, peu-ah.
From his perch on the pussy willow branchy, the heron can strike out with his sharp beak, and catch anything edible within reach. If he can't reach what he's after by stretching his long neck, he may resort to diving or jumping into the water after his prey.
On the night of the 25th of March, I first heard the spring peepers. For me, it's a springtime "high" that I look forward to all year. There's nothing that lifts my spirits like the songs of the first frogs. Two nights later, the temperature was near 50 degrees and a light rain brought the frogs out in vocal force. Mixed in with the peeping were the rattling croaks of the leopard frogs.
The first of April was sunny and warm. Another pair of bluebirds checked out the new bluebird house in the yard. The pair talks to each other in soft voices: tru-ly, tru-ly, tru-ly. For now, they have first choice of the birdhouses. The tree swallows also like the bluebird houses, but they haven't arrived yet and the little house wrens won't reappear until the end of the month.
That night saw an almost full moon rise in the clear, starry skies. I was outside, picking up an armload of firewood around 9, when I heard the calls of a passing flock of Tundra swans. Their haunting soft whistling cries have given them the name "Whistling swans."
Winter is gone, and as the days grow warmer the spring voices sing, "look to the future, there's no turning back."
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