The floodgates opened this week, and spring poured in from every direction. Within a few days, most of the snow melted and started its journey to the river. Within two days there was so much water in the river valley that you couldn't see where the river was. Roads had to be closed as the water rose higher, all caused by the melting snow. The high water is timely and its not unusual for the Kickapoo River to flood in the spring—in fact, it's unusual when it doesn't. If the flooding comes back in two or three weeks, though, it could be disastrous for the marshland birds who have started nesting. With luck, the flooding is over, but spring keeps gushing in. The empty winter spaces are being filled with the sounds of life. The songs of birds are coming from every direction, songs I haven't heard since last summer. The Red-winged blackbirds and Purple grackles are showing up in large flocks. The first time I hear a male Redwing sing it always gives me goose bumps.
A pair of Red-Breasted robins were fighting in the yard this morning, which tells me that the females are not far behind. The ground is thawing where the snow has melted and already the ground moles are digging their little tunnels across the yard. That means there are worms and other insects for them to eat. A peenting woodcock has no trouble finding worms as he probes in the mud with his long beak. He's been doing his courtship dance near the alders, along the creek. His nasal "Peent" call and the whistle of his wings as he flies a large circle over his territory are sounds I haven't heard since way back last spring, and I enjoy every minute of it.
Canada geese and Sandhill cranes have also been returning to the valley. Their excited calls are welcome to my ears--especially the loud bugling of the cranes. I saw a flock of 8 today that were flying so high I could barely make them out, but I could hear them plain as day. They easily could have been a mile above me.
Little bands of ducks are flying up and down the river. Wood ducks and a few flocks of the larger Mallards are taking advantage of the flooded backwaters. A couple of Great Blue herons have just arrived at the edge of the high water line.
Last evening, while I was outside listening to the woodcock's "peent," I was treated to the calls of the Tundra swans passing over in the night sky. Their soft woo-ing calls remind me of the sweet coos of the Mourning doves.
I won't say too much about drawbacks to a spring day, except for the deer tick I found crawling up my arm yesterday.
Above the pasture, a killdeer sets his wings and comes to a running stop. He announces his arrival with his loud, high-pitched cry, "killdeer, killdeer."
The watercress that grows in the spring is looking lush and very edible, and the pussy willows are ready to pick and put in a vase with a few branches of Red Osier Dogwood.
I saw a Great Horned owl sitting on her nest yesterday. She was sitting very high, which means that the youngsters under her are getting pretty big. Soon they will be full grown, but still have to grow their flight feathers before they can leave the nest.
Today, the first vultures returned, floating overhead on glider wings. It's always a thrill to see a large bird flying, be it a vulture, eagle, crane or heron. There's something majestic about how they fly along on such huge wings.
Many creatures have passed through these spring floodgates in the past few days, and winter is rapidly melting away!
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