The last week of March was every bit as nice as the first three weeks. Sunny, fair skies, and warm temperatures but no rain. It's late March so where's the rain? Things are dry and the color green is still a rare sight.
At the fresh-water spring in a backwater slough, a startling bed of green a few inches above the water line. Like tiny fresh lettuce or spinach leaves, the watercress looks good enough to eat. I've never been able to resist tasting the peppery, crisp cress. Nature's tasty treats are everywhere and they are even more fun to eat in the early spring. In a few weeks the wild nettles will be tall enough to eat, especially if we get a little rain. This spring treat is one of my favorites and they're very good for you.
Down in the marsh the purple-green shoots of the skunk cabbage have appeared through the wet soil. These curious looking, fat buds will grow quickly and will form a lush blanket of green by June. Browsing animals like deer and cattle dislike the stinging taste and strong odor of the skunk cabbage and won't eat it, even though it does look good enough to eat.
A nice green-gray Northern water snake has made his way to a spot in the mid-day sun. The warm sunshine will help recharge the serpent's batteries and soon he will be searching for something to satisfy his hunger. The smaller Garter snakes are doing the same but I have yet to see a turtle of any kind, which seems a little strange considering the nice weather, next week maybe.
Most of the ice has melted and there is no sign of snow anywhere, even the deep piles left behind by the snowplows are gone. Yet there are a few hidden, shady places that are yet very cold to look at. These are the ice shelves that cling to a north facing wall of the rock, being feed by the trickle of spring water, seeping through the rocks. They are beautiful cakes of blue ice that reminds me of glacial ice. Long after all the ice has melted on the land, the ice shelf might endure until early May. Why this form of ice is harder or more durable has always been a mystery to me.
The red/orange nape and crown of the male Red-bellied woodpecker is brighter than before. His striking contrast of colors really makes him standout. The female on the other hand seems to be a little less showy. She wears red only on the nape of her neck and not the crown. She may also show a little red color around her cere. Soon they will renew their nuptial vows and begin the process of raising a family.
The first fly-catcher returned to the yard this morning. I heard the little Phoebe's song before I saw him at the peek of the shed. He seemed to say, "well here I am, ready to start the summer, pho-bee, pho-bee, pho-bee!" Hopefully a pair of Phoebes will build their nest in the old shed and spend the summer signing in the yard and garden.
Sunday morning, the Juncos seemed to be gathering in the yard. I counted roughly sixty of them, all hopping around the ground searching for bits of seed. They don't spend the summer here and soon they will migrate to their breeding grounds to the north. Although they are not the most colorful bird, I'm always grateful they spend their winters with me.
The pleasant weather has been just right for outside clean-up work, raking out flower beds, picking up sticks, and cleaning up where the fire-wood was stacked. It means lots of wheel barrows of debris to add to the compost pile. There are some jobs I like and others I'd rather not do. A job I rather not do is digging up a bed of established Day Lilies. Right outside the back door is a small bed that is 5 foot by 8 foot but it is only small in appearance. It took me eight hours to dig out all the thick, matted roots that may be down over a foot, and sift through the soil, extracting even the smallest pieces of root. Even with all that work it wouldn't surprise me to see a few Lilies sprout up that I missed. I haven't decided what I want to plant in the newly turned soil but for sure it will something that isn't so aggressive.
A single, small Tree sparrow was at the feeders today, he's the first of his kind to show up here this spring. He was joined by three White-Throated sparrows. They also made their first appearance today. The song of the White-Throated sparrows is one of my favorite whistling spring songs, "Old Man Peabody, Peabody, Peabody".
I haven't seen a Wood Duck on the Kickapoo River yet but I have seen a few Mallards and three strikingly beautiful Hooded Mergansers. The two male Mergansers followed a single female across the still water of the marsh pond. They are about the size of a Wood Duck and their black and white plumage is very striking indeed.
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