As I reached for the front door at Organic Valley headquarters this morning, my eyes were drawn to a beautiful splash of color on the ground. A lovely grouping of spring crocuses were there at my feet, and greeted me with their pretty faces. I couldn't help but smile and I wondered how many others had smiles on their faces as they came through the door. It's funny how a few spring flowers can set your mood for the day.
I followed the gravel river road on the way home in hopes I would see something interesting near the river. This five or six mile stretch of country road has provided me a chance to slow down and view nature from behind the wheel. I have yet to see a Great Blue heron or a turtle and the river road is a good place to watch for them. In one stillwater slough four fancy wood ducks gathered close together—the first woodies of spring. Their beautiful colors are unmatched in the world of wild ducks. Soon these beautiful little ducks will get more serious in their spring courtship, and the search for a nesting site will begin. The female, with two males following her, will search the tree branches for a cavity that suits her needs. It may take her a week or more to find just the right place to lay her clutch. The down-filled nest will hold 8 to 15 buff colored eggs, which will be laid, one each day, before she starts to incubate them. The nest may be in a hollow tree a half-mile from the nearest water. If she's lucky, she may use a wood duck house provided by a compassionate conservationist near a pond or river.
As I passed slowly over the old bridge that crosses the river I noticed a little Phoebe perched on a small branch out over the river. It looked like a great place for the flycatcher to watch for flying insects. They are experts at flying out and snatching a passing bug right out of the air. Under the old bridge is a good place for the Phoebe to build her moss-lined nest of mud. It's very similar to a barn swallow's nest but the moss sets it apart.
Is there anything that smells as fresh and sweet as a spring rain? After a month of dryness, the rain came Friday afternoon in short spurts, and I swear the landscape began to green up as I watched. It won't be long before the area farmers put their cows and heifers out to pasture. The first mouthful of fresh green grass must be quite a treat after eating the dried version all winter long.
Two tall Sandhill cranes stand together and call to the sky, their long necks stretched to the max as they bugle the arrival of spring. The Sandhill cranes are tall at both ends. On long black legs they stalk through the tall grass, always searching for a grasshopper or spider or maybe a small frog or snake to snatch up in their sharp bills. They are still in their courtship stage and are famous for their early morning dancing and calling, "Garooo-a-a-a," repeated over and over. It's definitely a wild call worth hearing, and has been described by many. My favorite description of the calls of the Sandhill cranes is in the book "North American Marsh Birds" by Arthur Cleveland Bent. The description is from Hamilton Laing (1915):
"Gar-oo-oo-oo! Gar-oo-oo-oo!" Means fair-weather, sky-scraping call from the heavens. "Hur-roo-oo-roo-roo!" is a broken three-word call of inquiry; one flock on the wing seeks another far below. "Kit-er-roo-oo!" Means "Danger! Look out for yourself!" "A-rook-crook-crook! A-rook-crook-crook!" means "Come on; safe feeding here."
Then there are also the short guttural croakings and putterings, conversational exchanges while the birds are feeding. In addition, the youngsters have a plaintive, absurd little whistle. That pretty much says it all for the vocal abilities of Sandhill cranes.
The pretty little Tufted titmouse has gotten bold enough to come to the birdfeeders. He's been whistling his spring song everyday: "Peter, Peter, Peter! Here, Here, Here!"
Sure enough, Saturday morning there were small, blue clusters of light lavender on the hillside under the oak tree. On slender stems, the flowery faces of Hepatica poke up through the dead brown leaves. Their blush-blue beauty clashes with everything around them. And, a single snow-white flower with a lemon yellow center is only three inches above the leaves, yet I spot it 50 feet away. Its tiny, lush green leaves hug close to the stem of the Bloodroot. By the end of the day there will be a spattering of them in bloom through the woods.
Each day is a new day filled with new songs, calls, scents and color-a new chapter in the natural world. Change your life forever; be a part of it and go outside.
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