Barred Owl

moon phase Week of 03/19/2006 Excellent time for planting root crops.

While watching the Cardinals and Blue jays at the birdfeeder this morning, I noticed that there was something missing. No squirrels! Every day for the past five months, there has been a dozen or more gray squirrels in the yard at any time. Today, there are zero—what's up with that? I started looking for clues, and paging through some of my books on North American squirrels.

Barred Owl

The birds must enjoy not having to contend with the gray squirrels at the feeders. Today they are first in line for birdseed, for a change. It's a nice day, 40 degrees and overcast skies, but the wind is now coming out of the northwest. That's the only change I've noticed in the weather, and I don't know if that would affect the squirrels. Surely they will be back tomorrow? I wonder.

This morning there was another nice chorus of bird music, and today the bird songs were accompanied by the drumming of woodpeckers. It sounded like all the woodpeckers in the valley were sending messages to each other in Morse code. The hammering came from every direction, and wasn't limited to just one kind of woodpecker; Downies, Hairies, and Red-Bellieds all joined in the drumbeat. They find a nice dead, dry hardwood limb and hammer away at it, sending a hollow thumbing across the valley. For a while it sounded like a non-stop echo. The sunshine felt good today, and the birds sounded happy too. Then came the distant calls of the first Sandhill cranes. They were somewhere over in the next valley, and I didn't get to see them, but there's no mistaking that wonderful loud bugle.

I knew things were changing fast when an hour later, two flocks of clamoring Canada geese passed high over the valley. They were making such a racket that I heard them from inside the house. In a moment I stepped outside, and watched the first geese heading north.

By sunset, the sun had melted away most of the snow on the south slopes. I've made a habit of looking out the window every evening, to see if there might be a Screech owl at the owl box. No owl perched in the entrance of either box, so I slowly looked around the yard for the deer who often come to visit at twilight. No deer either. Under the birdfeeder, though was a gray opossum chewing on what birdseed he could find. I spotted him in the same place the night before, but then he had had a white-tailed doe dining with him. They seemed to get along well together, as each went on about their business. The day ended with the call of a Barred owl, and a dark sky full of twinkling stars.

The next morning, when it was light enough, I carried in a few armloads of wood. It was a frosty, crisp morning, but the sky was still clear and it looked like another sunny day ahead. I was just making my last trip to the house when I heard the familiar "cheerio!" of a Robin red breast. He was in the willows along the creek, and sounded happy to be back, even if it was kind of cold. It looks like March is in like a lamb, and that's fine with me—but we'll have to wait and see what the rest of spring will be.

While putting out some bird seed I noticed that the pussy willows will be ready to pick in a few days. That's a sure sign that the tulips, crocuses and narcissus soon will appear. Those first flowers are a highlight of early spring.

The five inches of snow that came to the valley last week didn't chill my spring fever. It was my favorite kind of snow, the kind that's wet and sticks to everything. In a couple of hours, the landscape changed from black and white, to white and black. A blanket of pure white snow piled up on every branch of each tree and bush. The large brush pile near one of the feeders served as an extra special work of snow art. Among the snow-covered branches were all the beautiful wild birds, their striking colors framed in a black-and-white background. It made the Blue jays look brighter than blue, but the real show was the ten male cardinals scattered among the branches. Yep, this snow was a treat, short and sweet.

The squirrel disappearance will have to stay a mystery for now. I read 17 different accounts on the lifestyles of Gray squirrels, and none of them mentioned why they may all disappear for a day.

Naturally yours,

Dan Hazlett

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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