It's the first week of May, and the cold weather is finally on its way out. Thursday was the first morning in over a week that there wasn't any frost on the ground. The wind, which had been blowing out of the Northeast, finally switched directions to bring warm breezes from the south. Sunshine and 66-degree temperatures felt pretty darned good.
I found myself outside most of the day, as there's a lot to be done. While picking up sticks in the yard, I spotted three little gray morels. They looked so pretty, peeking out from the fresh new grass.
On the rocky hillside, the lovely Bird's Foot violets are blooming. Their violet blue petals attract honeybees and Skippers. The process of regeneration has begun.
The warming trend brought a nighttime shower with a little thunder and lightning. Friday morning, the birds were all singing for joy in the wake of the warm, cleansing rain. There were new birds at the feeder, as the Rose-breasted grosbeaks added their showy red, black and white plumage to the growing color scheme in the yard. The grosbeaks' pretty, Oriole-like song is one of my summertime favorites.
Around noon, several handsome, male white-crowned sparrows showed up on the ground under a bird feeder. Their song is similar to that of the robin, and is truly music to the ears.
I spot robins and grackles carrying grass to their nest sites in the pine trees. A pair of Barn swallows is checking out possible nesting sites in the open shed. They twitter joyfully as they fly about.
In one of the old wooden birdhouses there is a new nest containing four tiny, featherless baby White-breasted nuthatches. They open their little beaks when mother arrives with a tasty insect for them to eat. The hole in another of the old houses has been chewed out larger, so I looked inside to find out who's living there. To my surprise, when I lifted the lid, a Flying squirrel jumped out and scampered up the tree. This wasn't the first time I'd seen a Flying squirrel inhabit a birdhouse, but it was the first time I'd seen what else was inside. Nestled in the grass were three little, hairless, baby Flying squirrels. They were each about two inches long, and had not yet opened their eyes. I quickly replaced the lid to the birdhouse, and left the alone, knowing that their mother will probably move them. Most squirrels move their young to several different hiding places while they are growing. The slightest hint of danger may tell the mother squirrel to carry her babies, one at a time, to a safer place.
A Phoebe has built her nest of moss and grass on a ledge up under the eve on the barn. Like the young squirrels, these tiny babies are still bare (featherless) and have not yet opened their eyes. I think that not being able to see yet is nature's way of keeping the very young quiet and calm. Quiet babies are less likely to attract the attention of a predator. The little Phoebes will grow quickly and will be able to leave their nest in less than two weeks.
Any day now, the young Kestrels will hatch inside their nesting box. They will stay in the box until they are feathered enough to fly, in about four weeks.
While some birds are still arriving, others are much farther along in establishing their new families. The Great Horned owls, for one, started incubating eggs in early February, and their young have already fledged. The young Woodcocks and Prairie-horned larks have already raised one family this year and are starting new ones.
At sunset, I hear the winnowing of a Jack snipe, as he does his Spring Sky Dance over the marsh. Night falls accompanied by a chorus of singing frogs, which drown out the sound of the snipe. The warm weather and rain has caused them to turn up the volume on their evening concerts.
Saturday morning I was putting out some bird seed at the feeders, when some loud chatter made me look to the tree limb above. Looking down at me was the first Baltimore Oriole of the season. I glad I had already put out some orange halves, or he may not have come by. Sure enough, as soon as I walked away, he flew down to dine on the juicy fruit.
There's so much going on in the natural environment in these days of spring changes. Enjoy these days, listening and watching the world around you come alive!
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