Spring Peepers

moon phase Week of 04/10/2011 Grub Out Weeds, Briars, And Other Plant Pests.

What a beautiful week in the Kickapoo Valley. Canada Goose Canada Goose 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. Great Blue Heron Great Blue Heron 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.

Snowy Egret in Flight Snowy Egret in Flight 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.

Snowy Egret Standing Watch Snowy Egret Standing Watch 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. Skunk Cabbage Skunk Cabbage 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.

Red-winged Blackbird Red-winged Blackbird 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. Rock Shelter Rock Shelter 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.

Early Spring Sunset Early Spring Sunset 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.

Naturally yours,


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Christine Grovs from from Milford, PA+&+Archer+City,+TX on April 20, 2011 at 02:56:05 PM
I agree, grackles make a "noise" - definitely not a song! Never heard them in PA -
Lois from from Seattle,WA. 98107 on April 17, 2011 at 08:48:27 PM
As always, it is such a treat to find your mail in my box.
Spring has been slow in its arrival. But oh so many joys in sights and smells it brings.It is well worth the wait.
Thank you, Dan, happy gardening!
Jeannine from from Ann Arbor,Mi on April 16, 2011 at 03:54:16 PM
Grackles' song is NOT melodic--did you mean red-winged blackbird?
Christine Grovs from from Milford, PA+&+Archer+City,+TX on April 14, 2011 at 02:51:40 PM
Oh, you are making me homesick again! Although I've not experienced the call of a loon, having lived in PA most of my life, I am familiar with the sounds of peepers and the other birds you mentioned. Additionally, I miss sitting outside in the evening. Living in the Pocono Mts, I could only see a sunset of sorts, but sitting on the porch definitely is a summer plus. Here in TX it's not something I can enjoy, but I have done so recently as "spring" here is much akin to summer in the north. Isnt' the outdoors in spring a wonderful thing -- especially in the northern climes!!!
Mae from from South central+PA on April 14, 2011 at 07:01:17 AM
You did one of my favorite things-watching a storm roll in. It's somewhat humbling, isn't it.
Rene from from California. (east+bay) on April 13, 2011 at 09:16:08 PM
Wont accept my comments
Rene from from California. (east bay) on April 13, 2011 at 09:09:27 PM
Love seeing the wildlife! I saw what I thought was a sand hill crane out here on a hike but it looked like your picture of great blue heron? Growing up in New Mexico we used to see lots of sand hill cranes in our alfalfa fields in the spring after my Dad would irrigate. I guess I don't know the difference!

Thanks for the wonderful stories & pictures!
Karen from from Rhode Island on April 13, 2011 at 07:07:59 PM
I really enjoy this column. The writing is so descriptive and personal - I feel I experiencing it in person. The accompanying photos are a beautiful bonus. Please keep it coming!
ERIN LOVETT from from ECHO, OREGON on April 13, 2011 at 03:42:57 PM
Beautiful pictures,and description of your sunsets.We too have some very active weather,one minute it's sunny,the next we have high winds with hail.But your so right,that when you can enjoy, it's best with good friends and family.God Bless, Erin,
Kat from from Canyon Lake, Tx on April 13, 2011 at 02:31:18 PM
I do enjoy this column so much every time.
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