Spring has been creeping up slowly but surely, but the forecast for later in the week is for temperatures in the mid-60s range. If we get a little rain before then, it will open the floodgates, and Spring will come pouring in.
As soon as it gets a little warmer the Juncos, whom I call the winter birds because they spend the winter here, will head for their summer homes in the North. In the past four days I've seen four new spring birds. Saturday morning came the sweet prairie song of a meadowlark. His beautiful, guttural song sounds like he is saying "Spring of the years." Because of the growing lack of his favorite grassland habitat, I wonder how many years before he won't return here in the spring.
A pair of Marsh hawks (Harriers) flew together over the marsh, making high loops for each other in a spring courtship dance seen by few. The marsh hawks too are becoming a rare sight in southern Wisconsin because of the loss of their once-abundant grassland habitat.
Sunday, a single black cowbird was eating sunflower seed from a window feeder, while a handsome pair of wood ducks checked out the Wood duck house in the cottonwood tree near the creek. There's no guarantee they will stay, but it's fun to watch how they thoroughly check out the potential home, inside and out. The female Wood duck is very vocal while inspecting her house, with lots of chuckling and cooing.
It's time for the Kestrels to start thinking about a place to raise a family. Usually a hole in a hollow tree trunk or limb does just fine for raising a family, but they also like a nesting box if it's in a good place. I've put three of these Kestrel / Wood duck / Owl boxes up this spring, and two of them have Kestrel activity around them. A lot will happen in the next week as it warms up and the urge to raise a family becomes stronger for the Kestrels.
Most of the woodpeckers here are year-round residents, but there are a couple that go south for the winter. Sunday I heard the summer call of a yellow-shafted flicker and watched as he flew to the trunk of a dead elm tree and began pecking away at it. The hollow tree sounded like a drum and is a way for establishing a territory. The drumming is done by most kinds of woodpeckers for the same reason. The woodpeckers are the drummer of this beautiful growing symphony of spring music.
Sunday night, the little chorus frogs joined the spring peepers in song. Most springs, the chorus frogs are singing pretty strong by the second of April but the frosty nights have slowed them down. By the end of the week there should be frog music drifting all up and down the river each night.
In spite of the cool weather, the sun has warmed the soil enough for some of spring's first flowers to appear, without any green around them. The colorful little flowers jump out through the dry, brown grass and leaves. These first hardy but beautiful flowers include the Crocus, Pasque flower, and Hepatica. They will soon be joined by others of their kind, as well as different ones including the spring beauties, Bloodroots and Anemones, especially if we get a little rain.
If you want to see how Spring is shifting gears towards its race into summer, just step outside for a while.
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