Farm pastures are lush and green now; it's good to see dairy cows grazing again. Recent rain combined with a few sunny days has made their coats shine. This week I noticed a few brand new foals. A new foal is one of those animals I'd like to be for a day - full of life energy and trying to take it all on wobbly legs.
Speaking of newborns, fawns are being born this week to white-tailed deer here in the La Farge area. The beautiful spotted fawns more often than not come as twins. No other living thing exudes loveliness and peace quite like the fawn - they truly epitomize innocence.
Historically, fawns are born within a week of Memorial Day, but for the past two springs I have noticed a few very small fawns in late June.
I was driving a country road yesterday morning and saw a darkish, cardinal-sized bird with a long tail fly up from the ditch I passed. I didn't get a very good look before he darted into the thick brush, so I did not make a positive ID, but I thought it was a cuckoo. I got my answer in the afternoon, when I heard one call from the edge of the woods.
Cuckoos migrate to this area later than most birds. They show up just in time to dine on their favorite food, tent caterpillars. While most birds do not care to eat fuzzy caterpillars, the cuckoo doesn't seem to mind a little tickle in the throat.
The two young red-tailed hawks in the large stick nest across the road are nearly fledged. New feathers have replaced their warm, fluffy down; only a few downy feathers still cling to their brown head feathers.
The young hawks are brave and adventurous, and they jump from branch to branch near the nest. At this stage, they are known as "branchers." Their next big step is to hop off the branch, spread their wings, and let the breeze take them to a new world.
I feel very lucky to be able to hear the songs of wild birds around the house. I'm truly blessed to hear so many different kinds of bird songs, including the whippoorwill, the owl, and the woodcock. Between sunup and dark, I may hear the songs of 35 to 40 different birds. They seem to sing to me as I work in the garden. A bluebird asks what kind of beans I'm planting, while a catbird gets his two cents in, talking aimlessly from the nearby prickly ash thicket. From deep in the woods comes the hauntingly beautiful song of the woodthrush, or rain-barrel bird. The busy little house wren sings his happy song all day and occasionally he comes over to chatter at me angrily.
A few barn swallows twitter as the glide around above the roof tops, and there are always several cock robins singing at the same time. Orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks whistle from the leafy treetops, while yellow goldfinches sing to each other at the birdfeeder.
The young red-tailed hawks sit quietly in the early morning sun. They've been fed, and now they stand contentedly, preening their new feathers. They coat their beaks with oil they get from a gland at the base of their tails. The instinctive process of preening will help protect them from the rain. All birds do it. After they coat the side of their beaks with oil, they pass one feather at a time through their beaks. They turn their head slightly so the feathers brush against the oil on the sides of their beaks. They then preen their heads by rubbing them over their already-oiled shoulders.
The lemon-yellow eyes of the hawks are on the countryside, and the birds rouse when a warm breeze brushes the big oak tree. Maybe this will be the day.
It was a week of mosquitoes, June bugs, and no-see-ums. The latter is a tiny bit of a bug that you can hardly see, but it makes up for their size with a harsh bite.
It was a week of irises, and of Lilies of the Valley. I stuck my nose into a lot of flowers this week. It's great to see color in the flower beds, the showiest coming from the big red poppies in the corner of the garden.
For me, these are days of planning for the future, as I plant seeds that will feed me through the summer, fall, and winter.
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