Signs of Spring

moon phase Week of 02/27/2011 Best days to do plowing & cultivating.

The snow that came Saturday night left nearly five inches of fluffy stuff all day. The silver-dollar-sized flakes floated to the ground in Natureís version of slow motion. It was the most beautiful snowfall of the winter.  Doves, Goldfinch, Cardinal Doves, Goldfinch, Cardinal It was the kind of snow that was weightless in the shovel and I felt like I was just going through the motions while shoveling. I tried using a push broom, but the snow was so light it flew over the broom. It was like trying to sweep up feathers.

It was a great day to watch the birds at the feeders and the new falling snow made a beautiful backdrop. It wonít be long before many of the birds will drift out to find their own summer breeding territories so Iím enjoying them while they are here. It will be sad to see the big flocks of Blue Jays and Cardinals leave, but I know they will return in the fall. The Juncos too will leave in a few weeks, and I wonít see them until mid-autumn. But thatís okay. Ice Falls Ice Falls There will be lots of summer birds that will return to take their place.

Itís a good year for ice falls. They are the lovely formations of ice that hang from the walls of the limestone outcroppings. Some are huge icicles that may be 25 feet long and streaked with blue-green and gold. Iíve always been fascinated by these wonderful works of Natureís art. Some of them that are out of the sun may last into May.

Itís warmed up some and that means that some of the wild animals who have been sleeping most of the winter are venturing out  to look for food. Sadly, some of them are victims along the unNatural trailóthe highway. The day after it warmed, I saw several dead opossums and raccoons lying by the side of the roads. Itís the best place to find something to eat, but itís also the most dangerous place to be. Eagle's nesting Eagle's nesting The little deer mice and voles are also attracted to the roadsides, where the plow has scraped off the snow to the bare ground. Itís a good place to find weed seeds or grain that has blown off a grain truck. A coyote has discovered that itís a good place to catch a mouse meal. Unfortunately, he was so intent on catching a mouse that he didnít see the car until it was too late. We not only hit these beautiful animals wit our cars, but we lure them into the road with food. A tiny Screech owl had also noticed the mice and voles along the road. He perched on a pine bough and waited for his prey to appear, then flew after a vole that ran across the road. The owl quickly pounced and caught the vole half way across the road. A Mob of Blue Jays A Mob of Blue Jays He, too, was so hungry and focused on the moment that he didnít see the car that drove over him. I guess people arenít going to save wildlife, but it would help a lot if we would just slow down and be a bit more attentive.

Life goes on, as a pair of Bald eagles snuggle together in the huge stick nest near the river. They are in the first stages of their spring courtship and are spending a lot of time together. The female, on the left, holds a nice new stick in her beak that her mate has just brought for her. They will add new sticks to the nest, like they do every spring, and the nest gets bigger each year. The eagles wonít mate until she has the nest just the way she wants it. Red-tailed Hawk Circling for Prey Red-tailed Hawk Circling for Prey Soon she will spend all her time in the nest keeping her two eggs warm while her mate brings her food. The season of promise has started for the eagles and life goes on.

The Red-tailed hawks are also feeling new urges and start their springtime rituals. They, too, are spending much of their time together, often perched together on the same branch while hunting. Twice today I saw both the male and female hawk dive down to catch the same vole in the snow. When it comes to food, the one who gets to the vole first gets to eat. They also are spending more time near their nest and can be seen carrying small sticks to add to it. Like the eagles, they mate for life and together may use the same nest year after year. Woodpecker Tree Woodpecker Tree There is no reason to think they wonít be successful raising families again this year, as long as they stay away from the road.

I have yet to see a Robin but Iím thinking it will happen this week. There are a few more early bluebirds, so Iím thinking the Robins wonít be far behind.

Hereís hoping that you are slowing down enough to see the new signs of spring. Let the changing of the seasons change your attitude and the fever warm your life. Enjoy the dawning of the living world around youóitís spring.

Naturally yours,

Dan

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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Comments

Mae from from South central+PA on March 4, 2011 at 08:00:53 AM
Again, breath taking photography. I drive my hubby nuts, yelling "Come here and look!" I'm sure someone before me has asked about buying prints?
Fay from from Louisiana on March 3, 2011 at 09:37:14 PM
Always enjoy reading your weekly stories. I especially wait to hear about bluebird and robin sightings, as you may remember. Thanks for the updates. Saw hundreds of robins in north La. last month but none to speak of again near New Orleans this year. I guess they don't feel like they need to come this far south!
Crystal from from West Jefferson, NC on March 3, 2011 at 12:50:32 PM
I really enjoy your column and pictures. Thank you for helping us to slow down from our busy lives, and to appreciate the wonder and beauty that God has created!
Maggie from from Edmonds, WA (near Seattle) on March 3, 2011 at 12:41:10 PM
Hi Dan,
My best friend lives in Madison,well nearby in Middleton. They also have a cabin in Viroqua which I've visited. Wisconsin has been my 'second home' since my grandmother was born there & my best friend of 50yrs lives there. I've been visiting and roaming the countryside of Wisconsin for over 30 years with my friend and others. She has a deep love and understanding of this place you both call home. I've received your Down Nature's Trail for years and marvel at your wonderful and close connection to nature. It always gives me a boost to read your observations as I sit in a more urban area and watch flickers at the suet box! We have great 'urban wildlife' here in Seattle and environs. Just wanted to say you have a fan here in the Northwest and your keen observations and poetic descriptions of your life in the natural world are very inspiring. Cheers and Peace, Maggie
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