The snow-swept winter landscape has dampened the spring fever of many, but today's sunny 35-degree temperatures felt pretty good. March came in like a lion, with sleet, snow and rain. Now it looks like we'll have a bit of thaw for awhile. A friend who was tapping maple trees says the sap is starting to run—a sure sign of spring. Tapping trees is no easy job when you have to was through two feet of snow to get to each tree! The deep snow makes a lot of chores harder, but the 40-ish temperatures will probably melt a lot of it in the next few days. Spring flooding is the next concern though, as all that melting snow on frozen ground has to go somewhere.
Clear, sunny skies turn to starry, clear nights and a beautiful full moon to go with it. With all the white snow, it's a wonderful time to go for a moonlit walk, or ski across the moonlit countryside. As the bright full moon rose over the eastern ridge, a pair of Barred owls began their haunting courtship calls. The calls of the Barred owl are most often heard as, "hoo-ho, hoo-ho, hoohooaw." Or, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you alllll."
When spring comes, these large, ebony-eyed owls begin their courtship. Their love songs can be very loud and intense, sounding more like the jungle birds from an old Tarzan movie than like Wisconsin owls. Their excited calls when courting are a rapid "Wo-wo-wo-wo, whah-whah-whah, haw, haw, haw." This duet is sung over and over for about 20 to 30 seconds, then the quiet darkness reclaims the woods.
The local pair of Red-tailed hawks can feel spring in the warm breeze that lifts them high above the trees. Part of their morning ritual now is to soar over their territory in the morning sun. Then, setting their wings, they slowly glide down across the valley and into the large stick nest. The nest, in a large oak tree, is still covered with snow, but it doesn't stop the hawks from paying a visit. The nest has become the main focal point in their lives now, and they return to it several times a day.
Since the snow came, I've noticed many large flocks of little birds along the roadsides—Juncos or tree sparrows who seem to be feeding at the edge of the road. There must be something there that they like, weed seeds or the grain spilled from a passing truck.
I also saw a small flock of Snow buntings. I pulled over by a snow-swept pasture to watch them with the binoculars, and counted ten of them. Traveling with the buntings was a single Longspur. These little birds summer in the far northern tundras of Canada and the Arctic. It's been quite a while since I've seen either of them. I'd almost forgotten how beautiful the Snow buntings are up close. To see a flock of a thousand or more is one of nature's special treats. They fly together in a tight wave of white that looks like a long flag or banner waving in the wind.
I'll end this week with one of my favorite owl poems, by Robert Mezey of Wesleyan University.
Nightlong waiting and listening, being schooled
To long lying awake with owl thoughts.
I hear him calling from the other world.
A long silence, and then two flutey notes.
The cry of nobody, but urgent, cool, full of foreboding.
He's in the cedar tree, not twenty feet behind my windowsill.
The other world is very far away.
When towards morning he ceases,
The air seems more visible, although it's not yet light,
The black sky drained and all our speechless dreams
Fading into thought. Lord of the night,
Thy Kingdom in which everything is one.
Come, speak to me, speak to me, once again.
Please allow yourself the time to be outside and enjoy each day like it is the first day of spring—the first day of your new awakening.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley