The Spring Pond

moon phase Week of 03/04/2012 Best days for doing chores.

Watercress Watercress The first color of green appears around the spring pond in the form of fresh, new watercress. One entire corner of the clear-water pond is completely covered by a thick bed of beautiful green cress. The first taste of watercress is the first taste of spring. The sharpness of that first bite wakes up my senses, but the flavor comes through only after chewing a few pieces.

The pond was a nice place to pause and absorb an early spring scene: water striders sliding across the still water like they were on glass. Water Strider Water Strider   Often I see these strange water insects in groups of 20 or more. They search the surface of the still water for tiny insects to eat, and they communicate with each other by the ripples they make on water. Their middle legs are for rowing, and their hind legs are for steering. It’s fun to watch them skip across the water. Water striders can be found anywhere there is a fresh water pond or stream in the United States.

The peaceful mourning doves have been courting in the valley, and their sweet, mournful  calls remind me of peaceful, melancholy evenings in mid-summer. Mourning Dove Mourning Dove “Coo-ah, coo, coo, coo.” At last count there are 11 mourning doves that visit the feeders. I hope most of them stay around and spend the summer with me. There’s nothing that sets a peaceful mood like the calls of the doves.

The days have been warmer than you’d expect for the third week of February, with temperatures around 35 to 40 degrees. An inch or so of snow came Wednesday night, and the trees looked like they’d been dusted white. I heard a thud while sweeping snow off the back porch. A pretty male cardinal had flown into a window and was sitting in the snow under the window he had just struck, dazed to the world. I gently placed him under my shirt to keep him warm so he wouldn’t go into shock. After about 10 minutes, he began to move around, so I caught him and pulled him out, then slowly opened my hand flat. Mr. Cardinal Mr. Cardinal Often the bird will just lie there, but when he realized he was free to go, he promptly flew up to a nearby limb, roused his feathers back into place and flew away.

There has been a little sharp-shinned hawk hanging around the yard from time to time the past few days. When it comes to catching little birds, they’re the best there is. Two or three times a day this one tries to ambush the birds at the bird feeder, but he’s not fast enough to catch a bird before they all dive into a nearby brush pile. I haven’t seen him catch a bird yet, but I’ve been able to get a pretty good look at him. He’s very handsome with steel blue back and wings contrasted to blush breast feathers. Sharp-shinned Hawk Sharp-shinned Hawk Dark red eyes indicate he’s an adult, a trait similar to all three members of this family of short-winged hawks known as accipiters. The other two family members are the larger Cooper’s hawk and the larger still goshawk.

The little sharpie is about the same size as a kestrel or blue jay and is able to catch birds as small as chickadees and warblers. It’s always a treat to see one of these little Mighty-mites of the hawk world, and they are as welcome here as any of the other wild birds.

A raccoon and an opossum were out and about in the night. They left their tracks in the snow around the house and shed. The coon’s tracks led up the back steps where he paused to sniff under the screen door. Gray Squirrel Gray Squirrel He also made a couple of trips around the car in the driveway before ambling off towards the creek.

The half dozen gray squirrels I see each day are probably males. The female squirrels are tucked away in their nests inside a hollow tree limb somewhere, taking care of their newly born baby squirrels. Gray squirrels can live up to 15 years and have two litters of young a year. She will give birth to 3-5 naked, blind babies that will be weaned in about two months. That’s about the time I start seeing young squirrels in the tree branches.

Sunday morning I heard the return of the first sandhill crane just before sun up. I knew there wasn’t time to run to the house for the camera, so I just stood there, watching the single crane as he flew over the house. Hopefully, more cranes will return to the Kickapoo Valley in the next couple of days. Their return is an event I look forward to every spring, and it seems to be happening a little earlier each year.

Naturally Yours

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Deb from from Deale, MD++Chesapeake+Bay on March 22, 2012 at 05:00:39 PM
Howdy Dan,

Thank you for always teaching. I now know the ways and mechanics of the water strider. A pair of Osprey have returned in the past week to the Rockhold Creek/Herring Bay area of the Chesapeake Bay. I have enjoyed their morning soar and conversation. It sure is heartwarming to know they made their excursion to the southern hemisphere and back to the bay safe and sound. The air is full of the happy chatter of all types of birds and our resident squirrels.

Always a pleasure to read your written word,

Karen from from RI on March 13, 2012 at 04:34:15 PM
Hi Dan,

Great post as always. I heard the first spring peepers here in RI yesterday. And I am also noticing an absence of the usual number of squirrels. How long do the mothers stay in their nests with the young? Surely they can't go 2 months without eating can they?
Jan from from TN on March 7, 2012 at 08:52:35 PM
Thank you for such a beautiful word picture, as well as the camera ones. Poor Mr. Cardinal, probably had a headache! I shall have to see what is growing in my "water garden". Have a wonderful week, I shall watch for the Sandhills. Happy naturing.
Elaine from from Watercress on March 7, 2012 at 12:56:17 PM
I love watercress and wasn't sure how it grew, thank you for the great pic. Hasn't it been a crazy winter, Mother nature is playing with us.
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