Mother Nature reminded us of how beautiful winter was as she delivered four to five inches of fluffy white snow on Tuesday. By late afternoon it was kind of a slushy mess and it was a tough job to shovel a path to the car. It’s not unusual to get some snow in April but it sure puts a damper on the spring fever.
It’s that time of year when there can be drastic changes in just a day. On Monday I was enjoying the beautiful spring day and getting lots of odds and ends done in the yard and garden. I even took time to take a late afternoon walk with the camera. There were lots of new plants to see that have popped up in the last few days. The pretty hepatica was taking advantage of the warm sunshine as their lovely white faces appeared above the dead leaves. Some other wildflowers have pushed heir green leaves through the soil. The small purple-mottled leaves of the trout lilies are up well ahead of their beautiful yellow flowers. They will bloom about the time the morel mushrooms are up, in about two weeks.
I came across several small clumps of what looked like tulip leaves but they were ramps (wild leeks). The tongue-shaped leaves of this herb smell just like onions and are good to eat, in moderation of course. I picked a few and stuffed them in my jacket pocket and I smelled like onions the rest of the day. The leaves will wither and die before sending up a single foot-tall stem topped with a cluster of small white flowers.
The unique but beautiful flowers of the Box elder tree are blooming at the end of each small branch. The Box elder tree will be one of the first trees to set out leaves the first week of May.
Tiny flying insects were attracted to the colorful Box Elder blooms—food is where you find it in the early spring. Fluttering in the upper branches was spring’s first warbler, a Yellow-rumped warbler or Myrtle warbler was busy catching the little insects who were attracted to the Box elder blossoms. There are 114 species of warblers around the world, and forty or more can be seen during spring migration in North America. They are usually smaller than sparrows, and the majority of them have some sort of yellow feathers along with green, olive, orange, black and white. These colorful but busy little birds often go unnoticed as they search for insects in the treetops, often in small flocks.
A male Red-tailed hawk appears soaring high above me and lets go with his raspy, loud territorial call when he sees me. He is always on guard for intruders who enter his one-mile square nesting territory. His mate is in her large nest of sticks, keeping her eggs warm is all she will do for three weeks until they hatch. The male hawk will take over the job of incubation from time to time and give her short breaks, but she does most of the sitting. He knows who I am and doesn’t hassle me much—it’s always nice to know who your neighbors are.
After the snow came on Tuesday, all that was early green was covered with white. The lush green leaves of the Blue bells look frozen after being covered with a cold blanket of snow. Most of the early wildflowers are very hardy and a little frost or snow won’t hurt them. A patch of cattails was also covered with snow but they don’t seem to mind. Their spiky leaves are already up about twelve inches. They are rapidly becoming a rare marsh plant in the Kickapoo Valley.
The Killdeer stands in the snow covered country road—it’s always strange to see a summer bird in the snow. He’s always an early returnee to the north and is no stranger to cold snowy weather. They know how to adapt to quick changes in the weather and the snow is no problem for them.
The male Robin has already started to build a nest in the branches of a cedar tree and his plans are already made. Snow or no snow, he’s here to stay and he also doesn’t seem to mind the winter scene as he hops over the white yard. He eats the dried sumac berries, still on the branches since last fall. Robins are true survivors and they always find something to eat, no matter how severe the weather is.
The bird feeders have been busy since the snow came. It’s fun to watch for the new summer birds in their pretty nuptial plumages against a white background. Red-winged blackbirds, towhees, White-crowned and Song sparrows mixed in with Blue jays, cardinals and Mourning doves. They were all mixed together in a beautiful feathered spring salad of birds.
The snow was gone by late Thursday afternoon—things were back to normal and spring was back on track. A male Sandhill Crane was standing alone in the hayfield. His mate had started to incubate her two spotted eggs in the nest on the ground, hidden in the marsh. The male will wait patiently for the next twenty-eight days when his mate will finally appear with their new family. I’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for them about a month from now. Every day is Earth Day.
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