The extensive warmth in the month of March was welcome; it got everyone's hopes up for an early spring. I noticed that people seemed more upbeat. It's wonderful how Mother Nature can lift your spirits.
True to form, however, March ended with a change - a return to cold and wet weather in the Coulee Region of southwest Wisconsin. For me, it means that keeping warm remains a challenge. It seems I rarely have firewood left to last until the end of April. The wood I had saved for the outside fire pit is now going into the woodstove. A warm April would make this guy very thankful.
Even though temperatures dropped to the 20s and 30s, the signs of spring just keep turning up. Last Friday I watched a flock of 16 fast-flying, blue winged teal drop into the Kickapoo River bottom near LaFarge. These wild ducks, once numerous, are now rarely seen here. They flew in a tight formation and circled the river twice, just above the tops of the big soft maple trees. I could see their sky blue wing patches as they set their wings and dropped into the water. There was a time when teal could be seen in the spring, summer and fall, most anywhere in southern Wisconsin. It was not uncommon to see flocks of 50 to 500 of these ducks using the small rivers during fall migration. I hope that seeing 16 at once is a sign that they are making a comeback. I'll be watching for more as the spring continues.
The familiar call of a male wood duck came from the wooded river bottoms. I didn't see him, but his distinctive "Whoo-eek-who-eek!" announced his presence. Last Monday, just after sunset, a large flock of tundra swans passed over the house. Their high-pitched calls greeted me as they flew by. They pass through the center of the state each spring during their migration, gathering at the Mississippi River in the thousands before moving to their breeding grounds in the Canadian tundra.
Is there any bird's song that signifies spring more than that of the red-winged blackbird? The coal black male perches on a cattail or fencepost and puffs out all his feathers as he sings his favorite territorial song - "konk-la-reee!" He drops his wings to display a bright red shoulder patch. Once the female has laid her eggs in a grass nest hidden in the reeds, the male becomes very aggressive in protecting their territory. Any intruder is harshly dealt with, as the angry bird hovers overhead and chatters excitedly. He doesn't hesitate to attack foes as large as cows, horses, or people - sometimes landing on them and striking with his black beak. Few birds - especially small ones -will protect their nest site with such vigor.
With nighttime temperatures under 20 degrees, the spring peepers in the marsh are not singing. To keep from freezing, these tiny frogs burrow back into the mud until it's a little warmer. For them the cold is just a temporary setback. Soon they will fill the spring night air with a chorus of tiny frog voices. Each morning the sandhill cranes do their courtship dances, singing to each other with loud shrill calls. The partners face each other and jump high into the air with their feet kicking and their long wings flailing. Around and around they dance, singing to spring's fresh new melody.
Though the voices of spring are all different, the all sing to the same music - a love song written by Mother Nature. It's a song of new beginnings, and all life is in its lyrics.
Down Nature’s Trail Extra
Spring wind, what did you bring me today?
Are there songs in your clouds?
Are there feathers in your breath?
Are the tree tops thankful as I for your caressing touch?
Do your sky-blue eyes see those you carry as they find your faithful passage home?
Will you pause to catch your breath and let Jack Frost in the back door? Will you again melt his soul with your soothing exhale?
Oh wind of spring, what will you bring me today, as you stroke me with your warm promise of summer?
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