Three Wolves

moon phase Week of 03/12/2006 Best days for doing chores around the yard.

Cold again recently. Last night I woke up at about 2 am because my quilts weren't keeping me warm enough. I did not relish getting up in the cold to feed the wood stove. I could have simply thrown another blanket over the bed and let the stove die out, but with a temperature of three below zero outside, the houseplants in with me would probably object. I've kept them alive all this time, because I like a little touch of green in the winter. I even planted six runner beans in a pot, and gave them some strings to run up in front of a south facing window. That was a couple of weeks ago and already the vines are nearly three feet high and climbing. They wouldn't like it if the temperature in the room dropped below freezing.

Three Wolves

My head had no sooner hit the pillow again when I hear the unmistakable calls of Canada geese. I pictured them in my mind, flying north in the cold, dark sky. They are the first geese I've heard since last fall. Were they some of the first migrants of spring, or a flock flying out to find a cornfield to feed in after spending the day on the Mississippi River 50 miles to my west? I guess I'll never know, and I didn't let the wondering keep me awake.

There are few sounds that would keep me from sleeping, probably because over my lifetime I've learned who makes most of them, around these parts anyway. Even a pack of coyotes within a couple hundred yards from the house can give a terrific vocal chorus, but it's a common occurrence around here. There is one sound, however, that would definitely make the hair stand up on the back of my neck: the sound of a wolf. It's rare to hear the howl of a wolf in this part of the state, but recently two people have told me they heard this chilling howl. One of these people even found the tracks the next day, in the snow not 100 yards from his house. I wouldn't be surprised if his sleep was a little restless after hearing a wolf in the night. The eerie howl would stir anyone's soul.

Wolves were reintroduced in northern Wisconsin about 20 years ago, and there are more than 400 wolves in the northern third of the state.

As the wolf population grows, new packs form and may disperse further south. There also seem to be occasional lone wolves who will travel aimlessly for hundreds of miles. Whatever the reason is for a wolf to show up in Southwest Wisconsin is, I for one will welcome him. I'll keep my ears peeled.

This week it's warmed up a bit in the Kickapoo Valley—daytime temps in the 30s with some sunshine. The cardinals and chickadees are singing their spring songs, and the Red-bellied woodpeckers too are getting vocal. After a long, quiet winter, it's refreshing to hear birdsongs again. I paused for a moment on my early morning walk, to listen to the sweet soft calls of four male Bluebirds who had lit on a fence line, not ten yards from me. I wondered if they, like the geese, had spent the winter in the area, or were they early migrants?

Around these hills, there are lots of Red-tailed hawks. You can't walk into their territory without them screaming at you. They are paired up and getting serious; their season has come. I've been watching the pair that lives in my small valley. I'm extra lucky, because from a window in my house I can see their nest, high in an oak tree. Twice this morning I saw the male hawk sail across the valley with an 18-inch stick clutched in his talons. He takes his new building materials straight to the nest, where his mate is waiting, and together they find just the right place for it. She then settles down in the center of the big stick nest and rouses from side to side to see how it fits. Soon she will lay her first of 2 or 3 eggs. The new family will be the adult hawks' focal point for the next four to five months.

So many people tell me lately that they are looking forward to spring coming. I tell them they don't have to wait—it's already here. It's going on all around us, from strutting turkeys to dripping maple sap. All you have to do is take a walk down Nature's Trail.

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