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. 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.
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. 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 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. 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.
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!
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.
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