Prairie Phlox in Bloom

moon phase Week of 05/13/2012 Fine days for cultivating.

Itís been chilly enough at night to keep a little fire in the wood stove, but not quite cold enough to see your breath in the damp night air. Possum Family Caravan Possum Family Caravan Little brown bats are out hunting insects in the twilight sky. There canít be many bugs out and about when itís so cool, so the bats have to work hard to make a living.

The whip-poor-will hasnít been very vocal since the nights got cooler. He sings for a while after sunset, then spends most of the night on the wing trying to catch flying insects. Like the bats, he has to work harder when itís cooler.

The weather this time of year can change at the drop of a hat as it did Sunday night when temperatures dropped into the 40s again. The daytime temperatures stayed in the mid-seventies, though, and there was a nice mixture of rain and sunshine.

Blanding's Turtle Blanding's Turtle A big push of migrating songbirds came through, and the mornings are filled with the songs of summer birds. The leaves on the trees have also shown a burst of energy, and they cover the valley in a cloak of green. A certain peace seems to fill the air when the color green touches the landscape. Frogs sing out and turtles bask in the sun. Summer is near.

I havenít seen much of the chipmunks this spring. They remain in their warm nests when the temperature is below 50. This week, because it warmed up, a few of them were out picking up sunflower seeds like miniature vacuum cleaners. As always, the chippies and bluejays get the biggest percentage of the seeds I put out.

Prairie Phlox Prairie Phlox The gravel river road is my favorite route when driving in to La Farge. I can drive along extra slow and not worry about traffic. Besides, I never know what I might see along the way. I was about a half mile up the road Thursday morning, just starting to relax and get into the beautiful green river valley, totally not expecting to see a red fox standing in the road right in front of me. But there she was. I grabbed my camera, but by the time I raised it to my eye and focused, she was gone. She had leaped into the brushy ditch a second before I would have snapped her picture. I felt so bad about missing that opportunity. I put the camera back on the seat and was about to start out again when, unbelievably, there was another fox in the road ahead, a little five or six week-old kit. Again I raised the camera to my eye and, again, the fox disappeared a second before the camera could focus. Rats. I need slower models. Well, at least I got to see these beautiful animals. Just the sight of them satisfied me for many years before I got a camera.

Phoebe Phoebe A little farther down the road I spotted something dark and round on the gravel ahead. When I stopped next to it I could see at once it was a small Blandingís turtle. This gal was more my speed, and I had no trouble getting her to stand still long enough for a photo. These days I see about as many of these rare turtles as I see foxes, which isnít very many. I held her up so you could see her lovely yellow throat, and then sent her on her way. I always put a turtle down off the road in the direction they were headed.

At the edge of the yard a small patch of prairie phlox stands tall and pretty-blue. There arenít many flowers in bloom around the yard besides the blue bells, so the little ruby-throated hummingbird that stopped by Thursday didnít stay around to get his picture taken.

Brown Bat Brown Bat A robin sits tight on her nest in the curly willow. Sheís picked a spot only four feet off the ground. She will be well hidden when the leaves fill in around her. The little phoebes must have hatched in their nest inside the old shed. One of the adults dropped an empty white eggshell in the middle of the yard for me to find.

The local red-tailed hawk has just caught a nice snake in the meadow and he calls to his mate as he circles high over the valley. When she hears his call, she leaves her nest high on the ridge and flies out to meet him. She follows him closely and, together, they fly back to the nest to feed their new family.

Early Friday morning I noticed Cat (my house cat) intently watching something up by the ceiling. At first I thought it was just a little bug or spider, but then I noticed a small, furry spot where the wall and ceiling meet. You guessed it. A little brown bat must have found its way into the house in the night. Draft Horse Foal Draft Horse Foal A long handled butterfly net works well at times like this, and the bat was soon free to find a new hiding place in the old shed.

A bald eagle has found a good perch on a dead branch high above the moving river. He watches the current below for any tell tale signs of a fish that has ventured near the surface. With luck he will catch a fine, fishy breakfast for his family back at the nest. Itís so good to see the eagles again. I hope they keep doing what theyíre doing, treating me to their majestic beauty each day.

Friday evening two shaggy looking spring bucks came to the edge of the woods. They are still shedding their gray-brown winter hair and both have the start of a crown of new antlers between their ears. I still havenít seen a new fawn yet, but I know theyíre out there somewhere hidden in the lush green grass and leaves. My thoughts return to the new draft horse foal I saw this morning standing close to his mother in an Amish pasture.

I find myself outside most any time just to be able to rub shoulders with spring. Thereís so much to see and hear. Itís almost overwhelming.

Naturally Yours,

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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Laurie from from Midland, Michigan on May 18, 2012 at 04:16:58 PM
Dan, Send that whipporwill to my area, will you? I haven't heard one since the sixties when there'd be one who visited our porch every night and sing his heart out. But it would make my brother mad when he was trying to sleep and the singing wouldn't stop until he'd go out and chase the night caller away. I'd love to hear him just once more time for old time's sake!
Happy nature trails!
Margarita from from Connecticut on May 18, 2012 at 08:50:15 AM
As a new subscriber, I finally had the chance to stop and read the whole article and not just skim it. I'm glad I did. I had a chance to "stop and smell the roses' or spring for that matter. Thank you for giving me a dose of nature and to stop and reflect on the beauty of it all. Have a relaxing day.
ELIZABETH from from southeast on May 17, 2012 at 09:20:56 PM
The purple martins has been dashing and thrashing around sometimes hitting the windows, The bluebirds have nested in the box by the driveway. The mourning doves are nested away in the leyland cypress. The cat has been climbing the post to the 4 room (occupied house) outside the kitchen window. The frogs are croaking by the rain barrel. I love it all.....
terry from from NJ on May 17, 2012 at 04:25:12 PM
What a wonderful write-up. I enjoy reading these articles so much. How did you learn the names of everything? Thanks for the read.
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