Prairie Chickens

moon phase Week of 03/11/2007 Best days to dry fruits and vegetables.

When the weatherman's forecast includes "some snow," that's pretty much all we get—just some. Anyway, that's all we've had for the past several years only a few inches at a time. Friday's forecast though, was for 6 to 10 inches Friday night and another 6 to 10 inches coming Saturday night. I've become rather skeptical of these kind of forecasts, because most of the bigger snowstorms have been going around us. This time the old weather guy was right though, we got the most snow at one time that we've had in ten years.

Prairie Chickens

By noon Friday a heavy, gray front of clouds started moving in. At 2 pm, the air outside was heavy, and it definitely felt like it was going to snow. At 4:20 pm it started coming down as what looked and felt like tiny styrofoam beads, but the real snow fell that night. By morning it had left 8 inches of snow to shovel—which wasn't so bad, it being light. Saturday night's snowfall was about the same amount as Friday's, but it had some real moisture in it, and when I shoveled, my back could tell the difference.

The weather here had warmed up for several days before the snows came. There was a promising hint of spring in the air. The truth is, the signs of spring are still evident, and Nature's spring cycle won't be stopped by some snow. There's no doubt that the wildlife will have to make some adjustments, with so much of the white stuff covering the ground. Finding something to eat becomes harder, so it take's more energy to scratch out a living. The wild turkeys, who can make their livings scratching for bits of grain and acorns, will have a hard time finding anything under 16 inches of new snow—so they'll turn to another food resource, in the trees. The little dried apples of the crabapple trees look pretty appetizing right about now. It's funny to see a small crabapple tree with a dozen or so turkeys in the branches. When hungry, turkeys may also stand in the branches of a big maple tree and nip off the fresh, nutritious buds and they won't think twice before raiding the bird feeders or a corn crib full of ear corn. Big birds are big eaters—and their diverse food habits will help them survive the long, cold and snowy winter.

It was a real treat to see all the birds at the bird feeders. The beautiful, bright colors of their feathers are even more intense against the new, brilliant white snow. They all flock together, mixing blues, reds and yellows in a colorful array of feathery art. In addition to the spectacle of watching bright birds on winter white, at this time of year you get the extra treat of hearing their spring songs. Some of my favorites are the whistle of the cardinals, "sweet-sweet-sweet, whitw, whitw, whitw." The Black-capped chickadee's cheery spring song is "Fee-be, Fee-be-be." To me it sounds like "Spring's come, spring's come!" And, there's another "spring song" whistler, the Tufted titmouse with his hearty, "weety-weety-weety, tee-wit tee-wit."

Another sign of spring has come to the snowy winter landscape. In central Wisconsin, on Buena Vista marsh, the Prairie chickens are showing up on their courtship grounds, also called "dancing grounds." The male Prairie chickens come to dance and defend their space on the dance floor.

This small population of Prairie chickens in Wisconsin is all that's left of a bird that could once be heard every spring in most of the southern half of the state. For a couple of hours each morning, starting before sunrise, the marsh will come alive with the spring calls of the Greater Prairie chickens, the "wildest of birds." These calls are referred to as "booming," or, "oo-Loo-woo, oo-Loo-woo," like the sound made by blowing across the opening in a bottle. Some say that this display by the males is the most sensational that nature has to offer. The colorful and vocal antics that they go through are second to none in the world of birds.

Naturally yours,
Dan

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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