The first days of March have been pleasant here in southwest Wisconsin, with mild temperatures that are above freezing during the day and a mixture of sunshine and overcast skies. The mornings may start with some fluffy white snow. By noon, it's blue skies with white clouds, and there's a light rain at sunset. There have been only a few March-like days, when the wind blew in strong gusts, lifting anything that wasn't tied down.
Last Sunday the first turkey vultures returned to the Coulee region. Three large black vultures soared in circles high above the treetops. It was good to see their long wings stretched out against the sky again.
Several kinds of insects arrived with the warm, thawing temperatures. I saw a few red and black box elder bugs crawling along the outside window frame. Several Asian ladybugs joined them on the glass. Unfortunately, those pesky little beetles appear on both sides of my windows.
After a late afternoon walk, I discovered I had brought home more than the usual burdock and stick-tights. What I felt crawling on my neck turned out to be the first deer tick of the season. I guess it's time to start the old once-a-day tick check--a must these days. Lyme disease has become a common occurrence here, affecting both pets and their owners. I've had it twice and can attest to the fact that it's not fun.
The quiet pool of dark water in the stream is where water striders play. I watched them skip along the surface in the mid-day sun. With luck, the weather will stay warm and I'll see water striders every day until next December.
It's a warm, foggy night, and tiny moths that I call Millers flutter in the headlights. They must figure that 40 degrees is warm enough for them to make their first appearance.
When these early spring insects arrive, so do the insect-eating birds. The woodcock now probes into the mud with his long beak, searching for worms. Soon mornings will bring the song of the phoebe. This little flycatcher is very hardy for a bird that depends on flying insects for a living, especially in early March.
The first killdeer of spring calls his name as he dashes across the bare pasture. His excited calls let everyone know that it's spring, and he has returned to spend the summer. Since he prefers to dine on insects, his sharp eye is always on the lookout for anything that moves close to the ground.
At sunset I watched a Marsh hawk hunting low over the flooded wetland. The yellow-orange sky reflected in the water, mirroring its beautiful colors from heaven to earth. Five Sandhill cranes flew by, single file, with their long necks and legs extended and their huge wings slowly beating. Their bodies are silhouetted against the evening horizon, and their loud calls drown out the songs of the Red-winged blackbirds.
If you've been waiting for spring and want to take in all the changes, now is the time to get outside. Let spring into your life by enjoying the life in your spring. Surely there are lots of jobs to be done outside--maybe cleaning debris from the flower gardens or picking up sticks and small branches in the yard. Maybe it's warm enough to wash those dirty windows that haven't been cleaned since last fall. For me, it's time to clean out the birdhouses and put up a few new ones. Any excuse will do to get outside and enjoy the season.
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