The full moon lit up the night sky and long dark shadows stretched across the countryside. The cold night air touched all and a quiet stillness was felt. Then, from high in the distance came the soft, high calls of a flock of swans. They came out of the west, from the great river. Finally, they are heading to their wintering grounds in the Carolinas.
This past month they have been grouped by the thousands on the Mississippi river just above Lansing. The large open area of the river has now frozen over and they stand huddled on the cold ice. Had they lingered because the winter was late in coming? Or maybe they just needed a favorable west wind to carry them towards the Great Lakes. I donít really know why the whistling swans waited so long to continue their migration. I do know itís the latest Iíve ever seen them come through.
They flew straight over me, their huge white forms lit up the full moon. It was an extraordinary event on an otherwise still and quiet winter night.
The first sign of spring is a pair of Great Horned Owls, singing to each other far up the valley. For them, the mating season is beginning and they call to each other with their favorite love song. Hoo, Hoo, Hoo Ė Hoo, Hoot, Hoo. Soon the female will lay two round white eggs in an abandoned crow or hawkís nest. The pair of owls will take turns snuggling down over the eggs to keep them warm until they hatch in about four weeks. The downy young will also need to be kept very warm by the adults until they are over two weeks old. By early March the two young owls will be full grown. Up until then, the parents will bring food to the nest for the hungry young owls.
It takes these young birds months to acquire the hunting skills of their parents. They will follow them around most of the summer, waiting for a free handout.
Now is a good time to listen for owl songs. But you must be outside to hear them. Maybe itís time for a nighttime walk down natureís trail.
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