The coming of spring quickened its pace a little this past week in Southwest Wisconsin. Favorable winds and warm temperatures (40 and above) are bringing back more of summer's birds. Each sunrise brings the spring songs of more Red-winged blackbirds, robins, and Sandhill cranes. Canada geese call to each other as they fly up the river valley. A kestrel chatters sharply as he performs an aerial courtship dance for his mate. I see flashes of blue dart across the yard, as pairs of bluebirds whistle softly to each other. A single female Wood duck flies over the tops of the willow trees along the river. She is followed closely by three excited male wood ducks, all bidding for the lady's acceptance. Their loud calls—whoo-eek, whoo-eek—add to the morning chorus. Another bird flashes his white rump as he lands on the trunk of a large oak tree. The Yellow-shafted flicker calls loudly, wik-wik-wik-wik-wik—a song that always turns my thoughts to summertime.
Whenever I hear a new spring bird sing, I welcome it back and wish it a pleasant stay. I missed these birds, my melodic summer friends.
Other birds are coming back who make less noise about their return. Several large, dark winged figures soar silently above the treetops. The turkey vultures have returned, and it's good to see them patrolling the skies over the Kickapoo Valley again.
A Great Blue heron stands motionless at the edge of a partially frozen pond. For now, he will have to settle for catching minnows from the dark water, but soon there will be frogs and snakes to eat.
On this Easter weekend, the garden is still frozen and partly covered with snow. There was no chance of planting potatoes like I did on Good Friday a year ago. A few tulips and daffodils are just peeking through the ground on the south side of the house. All they need is a few warm and sunny days, and they will shoot up to greet the spring.
As the robin's-egg blue sky changes to pinks and purples, the songs of evening birds can be heard. From across the valley, a Barred owl calls "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all." His mate answers his calls from a quarter mile away in the deep woods. A bright red male cardinal whistles his final tune of the day. A Woodcock takes up where the cardinal left off with his own peenting (woodcock vocalization). He does his strange courtship dance on his favorite patch of sacred ground, between the alders near the creek. It's wonderful to have bird songs continue into the night. The last song of the daytime birds comes from the soft coo of a Mourning Dove. The dove couple is probably roosting in the branches of a nearby spruce tree.
This time last year, I was hearing the Phoebe singing his name, but I haven't heard him yet this spring. The little Phoebes are in the family of birds known as flycatchers. They make their living catching flying insects, and this spring it hasn't been warm enough for bugs yet. The next few days could bring temperatures into the 60s, and that will bring the insects out. The spring peepers too may awake and begin to sing their peeping verses.
Enjoy these spring days, as they come but once a year. All living things can feel the spring awakenings, even we humans. Take some time to satisfy a long lost urge to return to the slower pace of the natural world.
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