Milk Snake

moon phase Week of 05/20/2012 Most Favorable Days for Planting Aboveground Plants.

The weather has been pretty nice here in the Kickapoo Valley and ever so slowly the temperature has climbed back into the low 70s. Milk Snake Milk Snake There was heavy morning dew every day except for Wednesday morning. The thermometer had dropped into the 30s the night before, leaving a light frost come morning. I had to close the windows and start a little fire in the wood stove to stay comfortable. With luck, that will be the last frost until fall.

I put several sections of old metal roofing on the ground in out of the way places at the edge of the yard. Iíve been doing this for years to provide a hiding place for bugs, mice, snakes or whatever else needs shelter. This morning I took a peek under the metal sheets to see what was there. One sheet of tin was hiding no less than five beautiful snakes. Two of them were nearly three feet long. Itís fun to check under the tin about once a month. Itís kinda like treasure hunting.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Rose-breasted Grosbeak What a joy to have the pretty rose-breasted grosbeaks in the yard again with their striking white flash of wings, lovely rose-colored breasts and beautiful oriole-like songs. They canít resist the black oil sunflower seeds I put out for them.

The chickadees have become scarce. This is their nesting season. I probably wonít see them much until late August. They kept me company through winter, and now theyíve left that job to the many summer birds.

Catbird Catbird From across the valley comes the unique calls of a black-billed cuckoo. ďCucucu, cucucu, cucucu.Ē  Itís the first one Iíve heard this spring. I hope it sticks around for a while. Cuckoos are one of only a few birds that eat fuzzy tent caterpillars, making them valuable assets to anyone who grows fruit trees.

There are a couple of catbirds sneaking around the yard. I always hear them before I see them. Their mindless array of songs goes on and on. You never know what theyíll say next. Sometimes theyíll hide in the thick brush and meow like an angry cat. Catirds are busy, vocal birds, and I respect their inquisitive energy.

House Wren House Wren The female cardinal has a nest full of mouths to feed, so papa cardinal is constantly on the watch for food. His feathers are so bright red he seems to glow in the morning sun. Just as in winter, the cardinals are the first at the feeders at dawn and the last to leave at dusk.

The house wrens were a little slow getting started this spring, but theyíre making up for it now. All day long I hear the rattle of a twig as it is being forced into a gourd house. They are on the move constantly, always working while singing their musical warble. They will stuff sticks into every unused bird house in sight but the females will only lay eggs in one of them. Iím planning on planting more bird house gourds when the weather warms up. Theyíre just the right size for the wrens and I can hang them up anywhere.

Harris Sparrow Harris Sparrow A bald-faced paper wasp found its way into the screen porch. These large, black and white wasps are aggressive, so I try not to make them angry. I open the screen door and let it out.

Some of the birds I see in the spring are just passing through before moving further north. That was the case with six white-crowned sparrows in my yard Wednesday. Their lovely songs sound like: ďHere, wee Willie, what díya see?Ē As luck would have it, there were two other conspicuous sparrows traveling with the white-crowned sparrows, a couple of pretty male Harris sparrows. I only see these bold looking sparrows in spring and fall when they are moving through. Itís been five years since I last saw one here. They are large sparrows with buff-gray cheeks and black crown, face, and throat. They spend summers in Canada, from the eastern shore of Canadaís Great Bear Lake to the western shore of Hudson Bay and up to the edge of the Arctic Barren Grounds. Giant Swallowtails Giant Swallowtails Itís always a treat to see these long distance travelers, even if itís for only one day every five years.

It was warmer and sunny Thursday so I saw more butterflies on the wing, including a few monarchs and fritillaries. Three beautiful giant swallowtails gathered together in the driveway. Itís nice of them to get together for a picture. Iím encouraged by all the butterflies this spring. The more the merrier when it comes to these flowers on wings.

I caught a Canada goose taking a bath on the marsh pond Friday morning. It dipped and splashed, then rubbed its long neck over its shoulders before preening its tail. This was topped off by beating its large wings in the air.

At the other end of the pond a female wood duck swam half-hidden in the water grass. She had eight little fuzzy brown ducklings in tow. My guess is that they had just found their way to the pond after having walked who knows how far. The little wood ducks were hatched in a nest that was probably in a hole in a tree. They were the first baby ducks Iíve seen this spring. Things are moving right along.

What interesting things have you been seeing this spring? Thereís a lot going on right under our noses.

Naturally Yours

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Ben from from Tybee Island,+GA on May 30, 2012 at 09:30:06 PM
Dan you ought to give nature walks; you don't miss a thing. I got 5000 meal worms a few weeks ago to see if I could attract some bluebirds. They are almost all gone; no bluebirds, but grackles eat all I put out and take 8 to 10 in their beaks at once and fly off nestward.
Myrna from from Redlands, CA on May 24, 2012 at 10:59:12 PM
The weather has ranged between 70's and high 90's here in the Inland Empire, So. Calif. in the past week and a half. We have many crows and I now realize they are very smart birds. Tues was close to 100 degrees. When I drove in the driveway that afternoon there was a crow flat out on the lawn with his wings and legs outstretched. I thought he was either sick or injured and wondered what I would do with him. He flew away!! He was actually lying in the shade of the tree to keep cool, I guess. All kinds of doves and pigeons come to eat the feed that falls on the ground that finchs and sparrows flip off the feeder when they eat--which is most of it. Have been intrigued by the rock dove or pigeon that comes, always alone. The pattern on the back half of his body looks like it has been specially designed and quilted. A birding friend told me what it was. Saw an oriole draped around my hummingbird feeder this afternoon. Didn't realize they are syrup lovers. Just started feeding the hummers a few weeks ago. More surprises, even after 30 years.
As usual, just finishing my supper.
Thanks so much for your colorful descriptions.
Sarah from from North Shore+MA. on May 23, 2012 at 07:31:41 PM
Love your post,it is a kind of meditation to me.
I recently saw a couple of fireflies the other evening. It seems very early, but everything seems to be happening earlier due to the mild Winter I suspect.
I am a little concerned as I have not seen any Bats yet, but will keep my eyes to the sky.
ANGE from from New Jersey on May 23, 2012 at 02:26:21 PM
Thank you very much for all this information about all your experience about animals, parakeets and all the different kinds of animals.
Thank you very much for sharing with us.
elaine from from hernando, fl on May 23, 2012 at 01:48:18 PM
Our resident woodpeckers are back, the small and the large one. The hawk have had their brood. The father still takes snakes and lizards or geickos.
The baby rabbit is growing bigger and stays out of sight from the hawk. The baby bunny loves the the new little daisies I have planted, he loves his greens. We actually saw him eating them. We don't care enjoy little one.
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