The bald eagles must have heard that I was watching for them to return to their nest, because they showed up Tuesday morning. The male eagle perched regally on a nearby branch in the old white pine, while the female got reunited with the old stick nest. As huge as the old nest is already, they will add even more material to it. It wonít be long before the female lays her eggs and starts the long incubation period, which lasts about 35 days. It looks like the bald eagles nesting season has begun and it will be fun to see what develops. Itís hard to say where the two young eagles from last year are. I havenít seen any sign of them for a couple of weeks. Time for them to start their new lives elsewhere.
I finally got a picture of the first sandhill crane. I thought it odd that there was only one. Was he a stranger to this Kickapoo marsh? Had he lost his mate sometime during the winter and returned alone to the place where they had raised a family. Itís another mystery, but I doubt the crane will be alone for very long.
Down in the boggy marsh where the alders and willows grow, a short, fat spike of green appeared through the dead leaves and grass. The first signs of life in the marshy bog are new shoots of skunk cabbage. This curious, inedible plant will grow large, green, oval leaves and will be over two feet tall by June.
Tuesday, the morning sun was a welcome sight after a frosty night. A few Canada geese and a pair of mallard ducks were enjoying a bath at the edge of the river. A few more geese arrived the past few days, and the mallards are the first ducks Iíve seen here this spring. There is something about the return of the waterfowl each year that always adds a couple of degrees to my rising spring fever.
The warm sun brought a large troupe of turkeys out of the woods and into the open hayfield. Iím not sure what they were eating, but every one of them was pecking at something on the ground. They were quite a sight as a few of the toms started to display their beautiful feathers. I counted 104 of them spread out over the hayfield. It was the largest flock of wild turkeys Iíve seen this winter.
The kestrels have been pairing up in the area, and itís not unusual to see the pair of little falcons perched together on a high line. It will be over a month before the kestrels start nesting, but they are already starting to feel the urge. The pair of red-tailed hawks is also spending more time together, and the females will be on eggs within the month.
I have yet to see a red-winged blackbird, but Iím thinking the first ones will return sometime next week. Iíve seen more bluebirds than last week, and I saw a robin in the yard on Friday. For some reason, they are a little late to return this year. I usually see the first few around the 26th of February. I canít help but see visions of summer when I see the first robins. Winter is finally passing.
Iíve always had a taste for fresh mushrooms, especially for breakfast with a couple of organic valley large brown eggs. A dear friend gave me a birthday gift of a ready-to-grow mushroom block. It took only a few days to produce a large bouquet of lovely shiitake mushrooms. The earthy smell seemed to add even more heat to my spring fever. These little tabletop mushroom farms are a great way to start gardening early. They make nice gifts, too. Mine came from:
Field and Forest
N3296 Kozuzek Rd.
Peshtigo, Wisconsin 54157
I still havenít seen any rabbit tracks in the new snow, but I did see the tracks of a large mink Saturday morning. Heís been hanging around for a week or so, but I still havenít seen him. Minks, like all the members of the weasel family, are rarely seen and prefer to be inconspicuous. I may never see this night hunter, but I can usually see where he has been by the tracks he leaves behind in the snow or mud.
I love the way spring slowly emerges from the dark, cold winter a little at a time. Thereís a little something new each day. Spring is Natureís perfect story of how winter melts away and slowly blooms into summer.
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