It warmed up a bit Friday. That night, the temperature stayed in the 50s. It was nice not to have a frosty morning for a change. The juncos must have liked the warm breeze from the south because, they were gone Saturday morning. It was time for them to head to their breeding grounds in the far north.
Itís been over a week since Iíve heard any frog music in the valley. Itís just been too darn cold. By Saturday night, after a 73-degree sunny day, there were moths and other flying insects in good numbers around the yard. I had seen the first painted lady and yellow swallow-tail butterflies Saturday afternoon, and the spring peepers started singing again around the pond at sunset. There were also a fair number of June bugs moving around. One flew right up to my flashlight.
Iíve been seeing a few red admiral butterflies. Monday morning I got a good look at one as it clung to the porch screen. The adults usually appear in late spring, but this year, who knows? Maybe a new red admiral has appeared from a pupa that made it through the winter. Itís surely been warm enough this spring for insect hatches, and itís only the third week of April. In honor of seeing the red admiral, I picked a bunch of fresh nettles and steamed them for lunch. Nettles are this pretty butterflyís favorite food.
The woodland ferns are growing and slowly uncoil their beautiful long fronds. The frost keeps them from shooting up but some rain would really make them grow. Above the ferns at the corner of the screen porch is a wren house. The house wrens always come back around the last of April, so I thought Iíd better clean last yearís stick nest out of the bird house. Strangely, a wren showed up about two hours later, the first one of the year. This is the earliest Iíve seen a house wren here in the Kickapoo Valley.
The pigeons that live in the shed have been busy with their young squabs. It doesnít take them long to grow to full size. Theyíll be flying in another couple of weeks.
On the outside of the old shed, the female cardinal has built her nest in last yearís dry morning glory vines. She is well hidden as she sits tight on her clutch of eggs. It will be fun to see what happens.
The patch of pretty blue Jacobís ladder just outside the door is beautiful. I couldnít have planted a better flower there. Iím treated to blue blossoms every time I go in or out the door, which is a beautiful greeting, indeed.
I caught the woodchuck in the act this morning as he munched on the tender leaves and stems of the cow parsnips. Man, he can really put it away. I think he would rather eat cow parsnips than the plants in the gardenÖmaybe.
My woodland walk on Wednesday morning brought me to a place under a dead elm tree where the morel mushrooms grow. Barely hidden from view among dead leaves and May apples were 35 creamy-yellow mushrooms. I noticed last year that the elm tree looked ill and had trouble putting out leaves. By the end of summer the tree looked dead. I figured it might be a good idea to have a look under the dead elm this spring. My memory certainly isnít what it used to be, but there are some things worth remembering.
A half mile from where I live, I discovered that my neighborís woods are full of garlic mustard. Itís just a matter of time before this nasty, invasive plant will spread to my place. There is a large pasture and stream between us, but the mowing crew that maintains the roadside verges will help it spread faster.
A great blue heron stalked through the murky backwater hunting for frogs and such, I suppose. Oddly, Iíve seen only a few of these four and a half foot tall herons in the Kickapoo Valley this spring. This is the only one Iíve had a chance to get a picture of. At the edge of a nearby pond, a great white egret was doing the same things that the heron was doing: hunting. Itís a little shorter than the great blue and has a yellow beak and black legs. The even smaller snowy egret has a black beak to go along with its black legs and yellow feet.
The rain came Thursday afternoon. It was a good soaker that lasted through the night. It cleared off by Friday night, and there was a good frost Saturday morning. Itís not late for a frost but when itís in the 50s during the day, you donít expect it to get cold enough to freeze. So it goes with this spring of 2012, up and down, down and up. I guess everything will work itself out, and Iíll keep looking to the up side.
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