A much-needed rain came today—a warm rain that came in spurts through the late afternoon. It was 74 degrees today. It felt more like May than mid-April, and the rain smelled as fresh and sweet as the spring flowers.
The beautiful leaf buds of the Chestnut tree are opening, proving just how lovely green can be. Beauty comes in many colors in the spring. A colorful turkey searched for new green shoots and insects as she passed along the pines. She has yet to lay her final egg in her hidden nest and spends her day alone, searching for food.
The eagle's nest is busy as the male brings a fish to his waiting mate. She promptly bends down and tears off tiny bits of fish flesh and feeds her two new, tiny eaglets. All is well at the top of the old White pine tree.
Far too often tragedy follows beauty these days. While driving along the river road, I spotted a black crow along the shoulder ahead. As I approached, I could see the road kill that caught his interest on the side of the road—a turtle. Not just any turtle, but a very rare Blanding's turtle. The crow promptly flew off as I pulled the car safely off the road and got out for a look. I remember when these clean water turtles were a common sight in the Kickapoo Valley. Now I'm happy just to see one a year, but I'm not happy at all to see one dead along the unnatural trail. He was an older turtle—maybe two decades or more old. I could tell he was a male because the yellow bottom of his shell was a bit concave, providing him the means to stay on top of his mate when he mounts her. The death of a beautiful turtle, or any living thing, is always in vain, and is never justifiable when it happens on the artificial highway built for humans only. The thought of the dead turtle still haunts me two days later. I'm so glad it's spring and there are lots of wonderful distractions everywhere I look. Lots of pretty spring blossoms already, including those of wild plums, yellow violets, and tiny white bloodroots everywhere.
I have to admit there is one spring creature I'm not really very happy to see. The Deer tick is an invasive species I could live without. There's no way I could go for a walk down nature's trail without spraying my ankles, wrists, and neck with Bite Blocker. Before these tiny ticks showed up in the mid-seventies, I never had to use a protective spray for anything. Now it's the only defense against their toxic bites.
As I walked out onto the screen porch early this morning, I was startled by a little brown bat that made me duck as it flew by my head. He landed on the screen and was easy to grab with a thick leather glove. I let him fly off into the sunshine, then found the place where I think he may have gotten in—a small crack near the roof was stuffed with tin foil.
The pretty little Goldfinches have been visiting the bird feeders the past couple of days. The males are already showing blotches of bright yellow feathers as they molt towards their nuptial plumage. They won't start nest building until the thistles begin to go to seed because they prefer to line their nests with thistle down. This makes them one of the last birds to start nesting in the summer.
In the still water at the edge of the marsh pond sat a pair of lovely Blue-winged teal. In spring, the male has a purplish-blue head and neck with a striking white crescent on his face. Both the female and male have a large, sky-blue patch on each wing. These sharp little teal were once also a very common sight in the Kickapoo River Valley in the spring, summer, and fall, but are rarely seen these days. A showy male Red-winged blackbird sang his spring song from a nearby branch. I never get tired of hearing his song—the true song of spring.
All the turtles are beginning to appear, sunning themselves after they climb out of the water. The small Painted turtle on the pier really seemed to be enjoying himself. Sun bathing isn't just a reptile thing, and they never waste a sunny day.
I've received reports of two birds I haven't seen yet, but someone else has. A co-worker at Organic Valley told me she heard the first whippoorwill almost two weeks early this year. Needless to say, she was thrilled. A sighting of the first hummingbird came from my dear mother down in Southern Wisconsin. She couldn't wait to tell me. I'll be watching closely for the first little hummer to arrive here so I can call and tell her. I'm 125 miles northwest of where she lives. I hope these tiny, delicate birds don't return too early. There was a heavy frost here last night in the Valley.
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