February Thaw

moon phase Week of 02/20/2011 Good days to prune trees.

Folks were getting a little down about the consistent cold and snow over the last few months, so this week’s weather was a wonderful relief. A Bit of February Thaw A Bit of February Thaw With temperatures in the forties—even 50°—all week, it was quite a turnaround for the wildlife and people’s moods. The signs of spring were all around—the melting of the snow showed the long-absent ground. The sound level of the valley streams had risen as they swelled with the rushing water. The deer returned to the picked cornfields and the hay fields to find food where the snow had melted. The scent of skunk perfume greeted me at sunup as a raccoon rambled off across the yard. A bluebird sang from a highline—his timely song was of the promise of spring. The day had just begun and already I had a breakfast of spring fever that would carry me though the day.

Sharp-shinned Hawk Sharp-shinned Hawk The warm weather has made life a little easier and there isn’t as much work to do. The old school house is much easier to heat and I haven’t carried firewood in the house for three days. Using a third as much wood in the stove also means I don’t have to carry in as much water—a job I do every day when it’s cold.

The nights have been clear and quiet except of the distant chorus of coyote songs. Waiting Patiently for Prey Waiting Patiently for Prey The Great Horned owls have finished their spring courtship and are now quiet as the female keeps her two eggs warm. When I hear them singing again I’ll know that the eggs have hatched.

The woodcock is another early nester in Wisconsin but I have yet to see one here this spring. I love to watch and listen to the male woodcock’s beautiful spring courtship ritual—a ritual once heard in every valley has become rare to see. The Turkey on Alert Turkey on Alert Prairie Horned lark is the other bird whose nest I have seen in mid-February in central Wisconsin. Sometimes the early nesters who lay their eggs in a small grass nest on the ground get surprised by a snowstorm which buries their nest. The female escapes the deep snow but abandons the nest and starts over. Horned larks prefer to spend their time on the ground searching for weed seeds and insects—in fact I have never seen one perched in a tree.

This is the season to test the Spirit as the weather will be like early spring one day and like the dead of winter the next. The Turkey Dance The Turkey Dance Back and forth, winter-spring, up and down, forward and back. Patience always wins in the long run but I still wish spring wouldn’t wait so long.

The turkeys are getting bold as they look for food to satisfy their huge appetites. I’ve heard several reports of them coming into the farmyards searching for bits of corn and grain. If there’s no dog around they may even come up to the house where the bird feeders are.

As the Kickapoo River flows under the old bridge, it carries the ice that has covered it for three months. It’s good to see the dark moving water again as it breaks free of winter’s frozen grip.

Winter Moon Winter Moon Thursday was a beautiful early spring day with temperatures near 40° and sunshine and by Friday my spring fever was in high gear. I knew I should enjoy it while it lasts and sure enough, the turnaround came Sunday morning. The full moon woke me Saturday night as it passed by my bedroom window, so I got up and fed the wood stove and went back to bed. By 8 a.m., a light rain was followed by sleet, thunder and lightening, and then heavy snow. Flakes as big as silver dollars blotted out all the signs that spring was here—winter again. Ugh!

Solo Eagle Solo Eagle Those who do maple syrup in the area are busy tapping trees and hoping for a decent sap run this spring. Their success depends on the weather of course—warm days and cold nights are needed to be successful. It’s hard work but very rewarding if there is lots of maple syrup to show for their efforts at the end of the season.

In spite of the recent winter weather, the promise of spring is definitely in the air and I’m always on the lookout for new signs. The river is open now and I should hear the calls of Canadian geese and Sandhill cranes any day now. The robins should begin to return to the area this week and with luck winter is on its way out with their return.

Naturally yours,

Dan

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Comments

April from from Boise Idaho on February 26, 2011 at 01:26:17 PM
Well, you know the old saying misery loves company. Keep writing as I need some of that company. It is 12 degrees here this am. We haven't gotten 50's yet, it seems such a long winter....
Bill from from Northern New Jersey on February 25, 2011 at 10:51:14 AM
Dan,

I always await and enjoy reading your newsletters. I value your natural world observations. Oftentimes, they are are a foreshadowing of the weather and animal cycles we will be having here in the Northeast. Peace to you always.

Sincerely,

Bill Drummond
Lisa from from Algonac, MI on February 24, 2011 at 02:38:26 PM
I'm hoping for an early spring too. We here in Michigan got a tease of spring only to be buried in a foot of snow just recently. I currently live on the north channel near where it enters into Lake St. Clair. We had free flowing water last week, the snow had mostly melted and now the channel is frozen with chunks of ice and we have a foot of snow on the ground. Ugh... I'm wishing for spring. I enjoy your column..stay warm!
Verna from from Cleburne Texas on February 24, 2011 at 11:51:28 AM
I love your pictures, keep up the good work
Alishaa from from Honolulu on February 24, 2011 at 10:53:32 AM
Hi, with all this snow...this year..hope there will be a lot of water and sun ...coming in the spring will mean a good harvest for the next season...thank goodness we may not see a drought on our land...hope this will be a blessing in disguise..
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