Contrary to some beliefs, I don't count on a woodchuck's shadow as being one of Nature's early signs of spring. This week's warmer temperatures have stirred a couple of animals out of hibernation. There were three reports this week by people who told me they had seen a skunk. I didn't see any skunks, but I did see some fresh opossum tracks in the snow this morning. Both of these animals have been asleep since late November and the warm weather has stirred them to satisfy their hunger. I hope they did find something to eat, because the nighttime temperatures have again dropped below zero, and there is still plenty of winter ahead.
Saturday night, I was taking advantage of the warm temps with a moonlit walk, when I heard the calls of the Owls. A single Great Horned owl hooted from down in the river valley. This is his hunting time, and he may be away from his home territory in search of food. His mate is snuggled down over her two round, white eggs, and waits for him to come and relieve her. Maybe he will bring her a fat vole to eat.
The Horned owl's stick nest is high in an old Oak tree up the wooded valley. An old Red-tailed hawk's nest has been their home for the past three years.
A Barred owl called, "Who cooks for, who cooks for you all?" He called several times, but no answer came from his mate, so far as I could hear. She may have been answering him from the next valley over, out of my hearing range. The Barred owls are just starting their territorial reconnections, and haven't started nesting yet. They are the most vocally entertaining of all the Wisconsin owls during their courtship time. They usually nest in tree cavities, but may use a nesting box with a 5-1/2 inch hole, placed 20 feet up on a tree trunk. The Barred owl is one of just a few species of owl that have ebony black eyes. Most owls' eyes are one shade or another of yellow, but they all have feathered facial discs that reflect light to the eyes and sound to their ears.
To hear two different kinds of owls singing at once is a real treat for the ears, but tonight I was treated to yet another owl song. From the tall cedar trees at the end of the meadow came the soft trill of a little Screech owl. Altogether it was the most sound I'd heard at night all winter—three owl songs at once. The Screech owls too are beginning to find their heartstrings being plucked by Spring fever. They are a little slower getting together than other owls, and their young won't emerge from their nests until mid June. Screech owls will also use a nesting box with the same dimensions as a wood duck or kestrel box. The box should be placed on a tree trunk 15 to 20 feet above the ground.
The truth is, it's not unusual to hear three different kinds of owls at once here in the Kickapoo Valley. In fact, more than once I've been treated to the songs of five different kinds of owls at one time, during the Spring courtship season. The owls' songs can only be enjoyed by those who are willing to spend a little time outdoors at night, so make a nightly walk part of your routine. You too can turn up the flame of Spring by starting early. Like the turning of the seasons, this evolution comes slowly, but if you are paying attention, it will reach a feverish crescendo that will lift any spirit that is open to it. Now is the time to begin to let spring into your heard, and enjoy the feeling as it grows.
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