Rufous-sided Towhee

moon phase Week of 05/11/2008 Excellent time for planting corn, beans, peppers and other above ground crops.

Wednesday was a particularly special Spring day. Not that it was such a great day weather-wise (60 degrees, partly cloudy, cool breeze), but that morning I heard the warbling song of the first House wren. It was kind of a surprise because I knew there would be some thirty-ish degree weather yet to come. Wrens are insect eaters, and insects don't like cold weather. Finding something to eat might be a little tough for a couple of days.

Rufous-sided Towhee

Tuesday also brought the first Rose-breasted grosbeak to the yard. It sure was good to see him and hear his Oriole-like Spring song after the long winter. By the next day, there were three singing males in the yard. They really like the free handouts at the bird feeders. Black sunflower seed is their favorite.

The truth is, when it starts warming up in the spring, I don't use any more cracked corn for the birds. Once the birds start finding insects to eat, the back off the corn, which isn't as good for them as the bugs. The corn builds fat that the birds don't need as much of now that it's warmer. The squirrels and chipmunks would clean up the cracked corn, but they don't really need it now either.

I also stop putting out suet for the woodpeckers and nuthatches. They eat it the most in cold weather, and now it's time for them to eat more protein-rich insects. They always seem to know this, and choose bugs and grubs over suet. Speaking of woodpeckers, the male Pileated woodpecker has been hanging around most every day. I can't mistake his loud, rapid "kuk, kuk, kuck, kuck," and he calls to me as he flies through the woods. I guess Spring has given him something to sing about, too.

Wednesday afternoon, I noticed the first pretty Dutchman's Breeches along the edge of the woods, and I picked my first bunch of nettles to steam for dinner.

That evening, while I was sitting on the back porch with some friends, a bat flew back and forth in front of us and gave us a good look at his amazing hunting techniques in the twilight. The perfect end to an eventful day, was the beautiful, long-awaited song of the season's first Whip-poor-will. I never know for sure if they will show up each spring, and my heart always leaps at their first song. I'm definitely spoiled and have been serenaded by their beautiful song for the past 8 springs. Summer just would not be the same without the Whip-poor wills.

It's extra nice to have the rufous-sided Towhees this Spring. I've counted five so far, and three of them are adult males. Their thrush-like song is easy to remember: they simply ask you to "Drink-your-tea!" The male Towhee is one of these few wild birds who have a deep red eye.

The cold snap has got me scrambling to find a little dry wood to burn. It's cold enough for frost in the mornings, and it sure feels good to take the chill out of the house with a small fire in the stove. I may have the stove going from time to time until the end of May. That's about the same time I leave the windows open for the summer.

The bluebells have sent their lush green leaves up about 10 inches, and in a couple of weeks they will be a foot and a half tall, with stalks of baby blue "blue bells." The leaves of the Lilacs are as big as a squirrel's ear, which used to mean that it's time for the little gray morels to appear. Already, if you look closely, you can see the tiny little clusters of Lilacs just starting to form.

There was a light frost last night, and it no doubt will come again in the next few mornings. That's typical here this time of year, and it means I may have to cover those tender little lilacs if I want them to bloom. Many years I am able to have a bouquet of sweet smelling flowers for my mother on Mother's Day.

The winter birds (the Juncos) have left for their summer homes in the far north, and Spring is picking up speed.

Naturally yours,
Dan

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