What a beautiful week in the Kickapoo Valley. Southwestern Wisconsin was treated to some wonderful spring weather all week but it ended with a bang! With temperatures in the sixties, I really saved on firewood and for the first time since mid-October I didn't keep a fire going at night.
The early morning bird songs are such a joy this time of year. It's a beautiful, refreshing chorus of songs that I've waited all winter to hear. All the male birds greeted the new day—at once. Robins, phoebes, cardinals, Blue jays, chickadees, bluebirds, Song sparrows and others, all sang the "joys of spring" together.
It felt good to be outside without a jacket while I worked out in the garden. The birds talked to me as the day went along and a little brown bat searched the sky above me for flying insects. He was the first bat I've seen since last fall. He knows that it's warm enough for flying insects so it's time for him to find something to eat.
Thursday evening I found myself still working outside at sunset. I was glad I was out so late because I heard the first frog music of spring. The first spring peeper's high-pitched peeps drifted from down in the valley. I had to laugh out loud when I heard them, they are one of the most noticeable signs that spring is finally here. From now until late summer evenings will be greeted by frog songs.
The week was full of the signs of spring. The warm sunshine brought the Painted turtles out of hibernation and they lined up on a limb to get recharged. A male Canada goose walked across the dry marsh grass; his mate has already started to sit on her nest, hidden a hundred feet from him. In about three weeks, there will be 6-8 little fuzzy-gray goslings following behind their parents.
The first Tree swallows showed up Friday and were busy all day catching tiny flying insects. They are the first of those in the swallow family to return in the spring and some years they return before the snow has melted. The earliest I've ever seen Tree swallows was in the spring of 1974 when I watched three of them trying to catch snow fleas over the frozen river on the third of March. There was some tough weather after that and they moved further south for a while.
They Yellow-shafted flickers have returned and in good numbers. They are one of the woodpeckers that go south for the winter. The other migrant woodpecker is the Red-headed woodpecker who has probably returned but I haven't seen one yet. Flickers are very vocal birds and I always know when they are around because of their distinctive call. It's like a loud joyous shout repeated from 10 to 20 times "wick, wick, wick, wick, wick, wick!" Flickers truly are birds of summer and one of my favorite bearers of spring.
The Purple grackles are so striking in their shiny black coats and yellow eyes. They flock up around the pine and cedar trees, clucking and chattering and displaying to each other.The males chase each other as they put their bids in for the best places to build a nest in the thick, pine branches. His song is the very essence of spring in the marsh, a sweet melodic "oak-a-leeee."
Friday morning a regal Great Blue heron landed along the trout stream down the road. I've been seeing quite a few of these four feet tall herons this spring. Hope they all decide to spend the summer here along with all their heron friends. The heron's cousin, the snow white American egret, flies slowly over the river bottoms. It's not rare to see an egret in the Kickapoo Valley but I don't see them here like I used to. Most of them from this side of the state spend their time hunting the banks of the Mississippi River 50 miles to the west. The egret is a little smaller than the Great Blue heron but their slow graceful flight is the same. Herons and egrets fly with their necks crooked back while cranes fly with their necks straight out.
Far out in the open backwater, a single loon swims low in the water. It's always a treat to see a loon but they only stop here to rest and fish while migrating through on their way to the northern lakes. I only see them here in the spring or fall when they pass through and the only time I heard one's chilling call was when he passed over after dark. Anyone who lives on a lake in northern Wisconsin or Minnesota will tell you about how they enjoy the calls of the Northern loon.
Growing up through the wet mud are the first Skunk cabbages, only four inches tall and hidden under the alders in the marsh. Not far away, the first round green leaves of the Marsh marigolds appear. I'll patiently wait for their lovely yellow flowers that are also known as cowslips. The spring flowers are coming soon adding new colors to the tired winter landscape.
Saturday evening was spent watching a beautiful sunset. My good friends Andy and Colette had just put their easy chairs back out on the porch and asked me to enjoy that first sunset with them. It was kind of a way to bring in the summer.
We watched as the sun sank down to the horizon and slipped through the apple trees in the orchard. It was a peaceful picture for a little while, then a huge storm front appeared overhead. Giant billowing, gray, white yellow and pink clouds with bolts of lightning and thunder echoed across the farmland. As it turned out, it may have been the best sunset to watch from the porch all summer. For sure it's one I'll always remember. Living in the Valley, I don't get to see the sunset every night, something I could do every night for the rest of my life. It's even better when I can enjoy it with good friends.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley