Thereís so much to do now that itís spring and the ground has thawed. Gardening season has arrived early this year, and spring clean-up has begun. Sure feels good to be back outside and doing all those things Iíve been planning all winter to do. To avoid cuts, scrapes, slivers and blisters, I cover my hands with a good pair of light-weight leather gloves. Thereís no reason to have sore hands if I donít need to, yet the gloves come off whenever Iíve got my hands in the soil planting or transplanting. I think I was meant to have dirt under my fingernails and stains on my knees. Itís something Iíve never been able to resist.
The male red-bellied woodpeckers are wearing their bright nuptial plumage. How beautiful they are as they strut their stuff and climb the tree trunks. It is said that the male will go into a hole in a tree trunk and tap from inside, while the female will tap back to him from the outside. This mutual tapping is said to help bond the two. Her tapping may convince the male that his choice of a nesting site is okay.
Tuesday brought the first song of a rufous-sided towhee. It was not his classic ďdrink your tea,Ē but the nasal ďche winkĒ sound they make. Sure enough, I spotted him sitting near the ground in the brush pile. I got a pretty good look at him before he jumped to the ground to search for insects and sunflower seeds that I had scattered about. You have to look closely to see his beautiful dark red eyes. Towhees are shy birds that spend much of their time in the cover of the dry leaves on the ground. You may not see them, but they will always remind you to ďdrink your tea.Ē
Mid-morning on Thursday was a time for washing a few dishes and watching the bird feeder from the kitchen window. Everyone should have a birdfeeder outside their kitchen windows. It makes the dull job of washing dishes fun. This morning I noticed a single hen turkey emerge slowly from the woods, stopping occasionally to kick the leaves looking for insects. She walked through the yard, crossed the road and disappeared into the woods. When I start seeing single hen turkeys walking around, I know that the egg laying has begun. She will lay a single egg each day, then spend the rest of the day foraging alone. When she has laid a clutch of 10 or more eggs, she will stay and incubate them until they all hatch at once. That means there could be little fuzzy turkeys by the first week of May. I still hear a couple of toms gobbling early in the morning but not as intense as it was a couple of weeks ago.
Itís sunny and seventy degrees, with blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Not bad for the end of March. A bright red male cardinal thought so, too, as he perched in the highest branches of the tallest tree and gave his loudest spring whistle for all the world to hear. Try this one out. Remember, itís a whistling song.
ďWhoit-whoit-whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit, whit, whit, whitwhitwhitwhitwhitwhit.Ē
This bird song is easy to recognize and quite easy to imitate. With a little practice, you can whistle with the cardinals.
The little black and white winter birds, like the slate-colored juncos, are still here. I thought they might head north to their summer breeding grounds by now. It will be interesting to see just when they leave. Most years Iím still seeing juncos through the month of April.
The woodchuck seems to be enjoying his stay in the brush pile at the edge of the yard, where he takes in the sun while standing on top of the sticks. These large squirrels like the handouts from the birdfeeders, especially the sunflower seeds. Soon their favorite food will appear from the damp rich soil along the woods: tender, young, green shoots of cow parsnips are a delicacy woodchucks canít resist.
Today a red-winged blackbird visited a window feeder, where it quickly went to work on the sunflower seeds. Itís nice to be able to see the bird so close up. Last year was the first time I saw one of these grassland blackbirds at my bird feeders. Maybe this is the same bird that has returned to spend another summer in the meadow. I hope so.
Mother Earth extends her invitation to you to take a relaxing walk down Natureís trail this spring. Step outside early and often. Early morning is the best time to let Nature touch all of your senses. Experience the real world around you and give your life a Natural perspective.
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