It has been cooler this week. The frost warning is still in effect, but these spring days have been nice. Weíve gotten a little more rain, and things are looking pretty green. Leaf-out hasnít quite happened yet, but I think it would have if not for the consistent hard frosts. Leaf-out is when the leaves on the trees all seem to pop out at once. This usually happens around the first or second week of May, when the day and nighttime temperatures work together to make it happen. Itís the first greeting of summer. I mowed the lawn over two weeks ago, and it still doesnít look like it needs mowing again. The frost has kept it from growing out of control.
I saw some tree swallows and a single cliff swallow on Earth Day, but the main swallow migration hasnít occurred yet. I saw a house wren a week ago, but havenít seen another one since. On two different days this week, I saw a rose-breasted grosbeak, but, strangely, I havenít seen any others. Nor have I heard a whip-poor-will call, and I donít expect to until the swallows return. There arenít many butterflies and other insects yet. Iíve seen a few chipmunks, but not regularly.
It wouldnít surprise me if some of the white-tail does have given birth to fawns already. I do think it strange that they are only now beginning to shed their winter guard hair. I thought they would have started shedding early because of the unusually warm temperatures.
In the marsh pond, the muskrats have been playing their games of muskrat love. How busy they are swimming back and forth across the pond, sometimes chasing each other and other times avoiding each other. On Monday morning I watched eight of them playing on the small pond for about a half hour. A pair of Canada geese stood on the bank, watching the muskrats play. Best to stay out of their way.
Wednesday evening I heard the first sweet call of a whip-poor-will in the Valley. Surely its song means itís going to warm up and stay that way. Iíll look for cliff swallows tomorrow, but itís still pretty cool for swallows.
For the first time in my life Iím seeing changes in Nature that Iíve never seen before. Itís all new to me. The timing is so unpredictable, I have no idea what will happen next.
I noticed the grape vines are starting to sprout new growth, and many of the wild flowers that I look forward to seeing are having a hard time because of extreme temperature swings. The lilacs have been beautiful up on the ridge, but are set back by the frost in the Valley. Iím still waiting for the lilacs in my yard to set blossoms.
I had the camera in my hands Thursday morning when a Cooperís hawk landed in a black locust tree right in front of me. Usually I have to scramble to grab the camera. She perched there for about 10 seconds while I snapped a few pictures. I knew she wouldnít be there long, so I didnít take a lot of time with camera settings. Itís not often that a Cooperís hawk is at the other end of the lens, and you are lucky if you donít have to waste time to get the camera, because often as not, the hawk is gone when you return. Once again, I was in the right place at the right time.
There have been a fair number of cowbirds showing up in the yard, mostly males. I like their shiny, black-feathered bodies and brown heads. Iíve always found these birds fascinating and mysterious. They tend to travel in small flocks. Females will have three or four males following her where ever she goes. Unlike other birds, the brown-headed cowbirds donít have springtime territories, and there is no lasting bond between the sexes. The female doesnít build a nest, but rather lays an egg in the nest of another bird. The usually larger cowbird chick will outgrow its adopted nest mates and push them out of the nest. This parasitic behavior sounds horrific to us humans, but cowbirds must do as Nature intended them to do. Who are we to deny that? Itís not the cowbirdís fault that songbird populations are crashing. Itís the loss of habitat, and thatís caused by humans.
The sandhill cranes stood preening together in the reflection of the early morning marsh pond. How totally at peace they looked as they ran their long beaks over relaxed feathers. Seeing them like that did it for me. What a beautiful way to start the day!
A few more white-throated sparrows have shown up the last couple of days. Iíd like to sprinkle some sunflower seeds around the bluebells, then watch the little sparrows as they search for the black seeds in the pretty blue flowers.
While walking over some rocky terrain this morning, I startled a killdeer off of her nest, or should I say she startled me. The instant I heard her loud complaint I turned the other way. She stood over her four eggs as I backed away, then she sat down on them again, satisfied that I was no longer a threat to her. She really doesnít have much of a nest. Itís just a little depression in rocks or gravel. The heavily spotted cream and green eggs are hard to see among the rocks, so look closely to see them.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley